In face-to-face meetings set up by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, prostitutes are telling their hard-knocks life stories to those same neighbors who once shooed them away, the Washington Post says. Their goal is to get society to focus less on criminal prosecution and more on solving the underlying problems that lead women to the streets in the first place: sexual abuse, drug dependency, poor job skills and low self-esteem.
The coalition hopes that the meetings will lead to more humane treatment by authorities and neighborhood residents of the estimated 16,000 to 25,000 women in Chicago involved in prostitution.
Police responded to community pressure by making more arrests, but “the effect of felony convictions is that they no longer . . . have access to public housing,” said the coalition’s John Donahue. “Their chance of getting a job is significantly reduced.”
Residents — even those sympathetic to the women’s plight — don’t apologize for their efforts. Many were fed up with having to run the gantlet of prostitutes on their way to work and school, and being approached regularly by men who mistook neighborhood women for prostitutes. “The bottom line is that prostitution is against the law,” said Dale Mart, a volunteer for the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy, which teams residents with social service agencies and police to combat community problems.