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13 April 2010, 10:00
A former prostitute has told Heart how a project in Medway has helped her to turn her life around.
Safe Exit started running last summer after people in the area told police how worried they were about the effects that prostitution was having on where they lived.
Kent Police have been working alongside the NHS, Medway Council and Medway Drug and Alcohol Team to offer support for women.
Inspector Gary Woodward has been leading on the project, he said: "Prostitution in Medway has been around for over 100 years, and up until 2009 there had been little change into how it was being dealt with. The local community living in areas where prostitution takes place have been very vocal in their opinions as they are the ones who are affected by the anti-social behaviour that goes with it.
‘Safe Exit is more than just trying to remove the women from working the streets or move them to another area. What we’re trying to do is change the behaviours of the women working, and also change the behaviours of the men who use the prostitutes."
Women who are arrested are now given the chance to join the Safe Exit programme which offers housing support, drug treatment, training and educational support.
Phillip Cooper, from the Medway Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT) said: "Once we’ve started initial drug treatment then we are able to offer a wide range of opportunities to women. Safe Exit can help women access, training, employment and education. This is not just a quick fix, but we are here for the long run. We believe that by offering the support that these women have never had we can have a huge positive impact on the illegal sex trade in Medway."
When Safe Exit began in August 2009 there were approximately 110 street sex workers in Medway. By March 2010 there were fewer than 20 women working the streets on a less frequent basis.
Sally (not real) name, is one of the women to benefit from the programme - listen to her story