Helping provide routes out of prostitution for women in Tower Hamlets

In 2019, The Axis Foundation’s first donation of £5,000 supported Beyond the Streets’ Door of Hope. This project offers hope, support and routes out of prostitution for women in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in East London.

“Thank you for the generous donation… Your support will enable our Door of Hope team to continue to provide specialist support and genuine routes out for women involved in prostitution on the streets of the East End. You are ensuring that we can reach more women to offer consistency and a compassionate response to overcome the barriers they face. Thank you for standing with us, we are stronger with your support to tackle sexual exploitation in our community” – Josephine Knowles, Co-Director for Services

In 2023, the Axis Foundation Trustees agreed to make another award – of £1,286 – towards Door of Hope. This second donation will cover the cost of personal alarms (to help the women feel safer when in the area at night), identity documentation (including replacement birth certificates to them to get a Citizens Photo ID card for free which means they can then access vital services such as benefits and housing) and personal toiletries (to ensure that women do not have to sell sex more frequently in order to purchase basic products like toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel, deodorant and sanitary towels).

“Thank you so much for this award! It will make a real difference to the women we journey alongside” – Victoria Curtis, Grants Manager

More About Beyond the Streets

For over 20 years Beyond the Streets have been working with women experiencing sexual exploitation as they journey to safer, heathier and happier lives. As a specialist charity they have an in-depth understanding of the complexity’s women face, the underlying causes of entry, and the multiple barriers to exiting. Working directly with women, the Door of Hope project provides a safe space for the women’s voices to be heard and for them to receive support and advocacy via specialist Women’s Support Workers. Using a trauma-informed, person-centred model, women can process feelings and safety plan whilst increasing their confidence and self-agency, so they themselves can identify their own needs and devise their own journeys to a future where they can thrive.

Alongside the Door of Hope project, Beyond the Street delivers a remote, UK-wide, free and confidential call-back service, Beyond Support, that also provides support and advocacy to women involved in selling sex. In both projects they work with local, specialist services to provide holistic and accessible support for women. They also run an affiliate network for 35+ other organisations who work within the theme; develop and deliver training for the third sector and statutory professionals; as well as create practitioner resources and reports that are uniquely informed by up-to-date research, lived experience and practitioner experience.  This is all with the aim of reducing stigma and barriers to support services, and to create much needed systemic change so no women are compelled to sell sex due to poverty, coercion, or violence.

CASE STUDY kindly provided by Beyond the Streets
April’s story

When we met April, she was using crack and heroine, involved in the criminal justice system for drug related offences, and selling sex frequently on the street. Our street outreach team connected with her until she got to a place where she wanted to access our 1:1 daytime support. Our trained Women’s Support Workers (WSW) provided 1:1 non-judgemental specialist listening space. Utilising a trauma-informed and women-centred approach, April had the opportunity to process her feelings and the trauma she had experienced early and later in life. This helped her develop confidence and self-agency in preparation for change. The WSW helped her access services by directly advocating for her with professionals and through partner referral organisations. This prevented her from having to re-tell her ‘story’ and risk re-traumatisation.

This work involved helping her to reduce her drug use through our partnership with a local specialist service and advocating for appropriate housing for her until she was placed in funded supported accommodation. April was also struggling with mental health difficulties,  processing trauma, and had been experiencing domestic abuse by her long-term partner. April’s Women’s Support Worker was able to secure free counselling. She also helped her access Universal Credit to support April and remove her money worries so she could focus on reaching her identified future goals. April was able to maintain zero contact with the perpetrator of the abuse she had previous suffered, who up until this point had remained in her life.

April has since applied for, and successfully secured a new job.

April has shared with us that ‘You never gave up on me and often you were the only support holding me up –I’m a new person and I’m excited about my future.”