Sex Trafficking Survivors Seek Help 'Off The Streets'
By Emma Jenkins
***Sydney is a pseudonym used for an Off the Streets alumni. Her real name is not included for her privacy and safety. ***
Sixteen months ago, Sydney was prostituting on the streets of Cincinnati. Addicted to heroin and crack cocaine, she didn’t know how to break the cycle.
“I thought, ‘This is who I am. I’m a drug addicted prostitute. This is it for me’,” she said.
That was until Sydney sought help at Off the Streets, a program that addresses the needs of women with histories of sex trafficking and exploitation.
Sydney is one of more than 1,000 women who has been served by Off the Streets. The program houses 24 women at a time and uses a three-phase system to help each one individually.
In the safety phase, basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing are met. During recovery, women receive physical health exams, mental health exams, substance abuse services and trauma recovery. The empowerment phase includes job and education training, including mock interviews, resume writing and GED classes, along with relapse prevention education.
Off the Streets provides additional support using a peer-model, meaning each staff member has similar life experiences to the women they serve.
A non-judgmental environment is important, as it’s easier to listen to someone who has been in similar circumstances, Sydney said.
After spending six months in the program, Sydney made a successful transition. She got an apartment, began babysitting and is now working with a job coach to begin her daily career. She still returns for after-care groups at Off the Streets to mentor current residents.
“Before I walked in these doors, I had no hope. I never pictured my life sober. I felt worthless. I didn’t even remember what happiness was,” Sydney said. “But when I walked [into Off the Streets], the love that I felt and the hope I saw in the other people who had stayed clean — they just taught me a new way of life that I never thought was possible.”
Viann Barnett, program director at Off the Streets, echoes this message.
"Off the Street has changed the lives of many. Off the Streets is a hope for a second chance," Barnett said. “No matter how bad your life is, there’s some hope. "
Off the Streets: (513) 378-2534