How do we best support people who are involved in street prostitution?  By recognizing that those involved in street prostitution hold the true expertise that is gained from lived experience.  Through learning from those we serve, SWAP has identified Ways of Working that increase the opportunity for success for both people who are involved in street prostitution and the agencies that support them. 

Services must recognize that leaving street life is a process that takes many starts and stops.

When you have lived most, if not all of your life, from day to day with few supports, little education, no employment training or work experience and with little or no self-esteem, leaving the street can be a complicated, challenging and frightening process.

Provide harm reduction services so people are as safe as possible while on the street and in their personal lives.

Harm reduction services attempt to reduce the level of harm for those surviving in high-risk environments by improving accessibility to condoms, crisis intervention services, health information and services and providing information about potential predators.

Connect with the street sex trade population and those at risk through Street Outreach and Drop In Centre Services.

The majority of those working in the street sex trade are reluctant to access mainstream services due to the fear of being judged and ridiculed.  Outreach programs serve as a way to engage people on their territory.  Outreach builds relationships of trust and respect that may eventually form the bridge to other programs and services that will provide individuals with the skills, knowledge and self-confidence to leave the street. 

Give people access to services as many times as needed.

We all need someone who believes in us, at least until we can begin to believe in ourselves.  Keeping an open door offers a reassuring presence that lets people know they are worthwhile and can make it.

Hire staff that have successfully left street life.

Experiential staff carry within them not only the knowledge of the trauma they have experienced while on the street, but the wisdom of those who have survived and found a way off.  Hiring experiential staff demonstrates confidence in people’s potential, enhances relationships and creates hope in others that they too can find a better life.

Build enduring relationships through respectful, dedicated and long term supports.

Providing consistent and intensive support over the long term is critical to offset the profound trauma, mistrust and feelings of hopelessness that marginalization creates.  Relationship building through Street Outreach transitions to the Drop In Centre, a safe place where people find respect, dignity and hope.

Ensure that the people using the service have a choice of what services they use, without this affecting access to other services.

Trying to force people to start where we think they should start often results in disengagement.  Remember, the first step is about connection and engagement.

Provide holistic services that meet people's needs and improve their success.

Offering the range of services and programs people need to be successful in their transitions supports growth and change in all areas of their lives.  These services include counselling, court support, health and education services, housing supports, food security, skills development and training and employment counselling and training. 

Maximize services through collaboration.

Building relationships with other service providers facilitates the transition process when people are ready to move beyond the services available through any one agency.

Provide support and education to the larger community.

There continue to be many myths and misconceptions about the street sex trade and about those who rely on it for economic survival.  The more educated we as a community are, the more support there will be for effective services and programs.

Adequately and continuously resource services.

Without adequate and long term funding, agencies themselves are in survival mode and unable to provide the level of consistent, intensive and long term services and programs required to support people in successfully transitioning from the street.  Critical resources are diverted from program delivery as they focus on the search for funding to keep their doors open.  To be able to effectively respond to the needs of the community, adequate resources must be available to hire and retain experienced staff, plan for the future and build collaborative relationships with other service providers.