Copyright discovers how one Bristol charity has, for over two decades, been addressing the plight of the city’s street sex workers

Bristol’s streets are famous for hosting some of the best graffiti artists in the world. But beneath this thin veil of urban chic, they harbour extraordinary stories of the women who work on them. Many of these stories, however, would have remained unheard if not for the laudable work of One25. The St Paul’s-based charity has been reaching out to women trapped in a cycle of sex work and addiction for over 20 years. Last year, their team of 20 staff and close to 120 volunteers, helped 55 women in Bristol break free and begin new lives.

‘More than 150 women currently street sex work in Bristol’, says Amy Sutcliffe, Fundraising Manager for One25. ‘They are among the most vulnerable in society with 99 per cent of the women we treat, addicted to drugs or alcohol and around 80 percent homeless. ‘Our mission is to provide the best for them because that’s what they deserve.’

The charity’s van outreach programme goes directly women in need of support.

The charity’s van outreach programme goes directly women in need of support.

 

One25 are the only organisation in Bristol dedicated to helping women engaged in street sex work. Their services tackle all areas of need, including housing, criminal justice, healthcare and family issues. Most of this support is delivered by their extensive team of volunteers who assist in running One25’s information drop-in centre, fundraising activities and van outreach programme.

‘One of the things that the women really comment on, is the fact our volunteers are not getting paid to help them, this is something really powerful for them,’ says Amy. ‘That sense of love and care is hugely important to these women and we couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers.’

One25 look for certain skills in their volunteers. They highlight the need for anyone involved to genuinely support their philosophy: to help street sex workers by meeting them where they are, free from judgment and willing to support them in whatever capacity is required.

In return, volunteers gain new skills in supporting vulnerable adults, as well as training in mental health, public speaking and welfare and benefits, along with many other development opportunities. ‘One25 gives you the opportunity to be part of something really special in our city; part of something that makes a huge difference to the women who are most in need,’ Amy explains. ‘When you come and volunteer here you become part of the solution.’

Through training and support, many women are able to leave the streets behind.

Through training and support, many women are able to leave the streets behind.

 

From taking part in their van outreach programme during the night to provide hot drinks, advice and health support to the women, to bid writing, undertaking drop-in information sessions, social media and admin tasks, the volunteering roles offered by One25 are wide-reaching. ‘We feel that it is really important to equip our volunteers with everything they need,’ says Amy. ‘Our training programme is very comprehensive and covers all the different issues that the women are facing, so our volunteers know and understand these issues and are able to provide the best for the women.’

‘The biggest thing we do for women, initially, is to tell them that they are valued and important,’ concludes Amy. ‘They have suffered years of abuse and carry a lot of trauma.

‘We step in and together, challenge that, telling them that they are brilliant and holding out hope for a better future.’


CR_do_more_icon

Do more

You can register your interest to volunteer by emailing:

 

Or, by visiting their website:

 


 

Words: Blanca Munoz