Helen* visited our Beacon Support Centre for the first time in September 2021. She had recently fled from her partner, who had been forcing her into sex work to fund his substance addiction.

When Helen decided enough was enough, she left her partner and their home. After two nights sleeping rough on the streets of Manchester, she turned to us for help…

Arranging immediate support

Helen was already engaging with Manchester Action on Street Health (MASH), a charity that offers advice and support to women in sex work. Initially, she only visited our centre for some pants and shoes, but after one of our engagement workers sat down and listened to her story, something changed and she accepted the offer of further support.

Working together with MASH, we quickly arranged a housing assessment, conducted over the phone in our support centre. Helen is clearly a vulnerable person, so we were delighted when Manchester City Council agreed with our assessment and gave her duty of care.

Helen was given a hotel room to stay in outside of Manchester, to protect her from her partner. We also gave her some provisions including toiletries, clothing and food.

The power of open communication

Helen was very grateful and thanked our engagement worker for taking the time to listen to her and for not judging her based on her sex work. Helen confessed that she doesn’t have anyone that she can talk openly to apart from the workers at Mash, and was so glad to be able to speak to us.

Our engagement workers are often the first people our friends meet when they come to Barnabus. They offer practical help and support work such as housing or medical referrals, but, importantly, they’re also there to talk with our friends. In this way, they build trust and encourage them to engage with the support that’s available – whether they were unaware of or unwilling to accept the help on offer.

We think Helen’s story is a perfect example of just how important the work of our engagement staff is. Our team really does enable our friends to succeed on their journey to recovery.

Onwards and upwards

A week on from when Helen came through our doors, we spoke to MASH to see if they would be able to update us on her wellbeing. She had still been attending their drop-in service while staying at the hotel, and we were able to speak to her on the phone.

Helen was glad we rang. She also thanked Becky, the engagement worker who first sat with her. It was great to be able to wish her well for the future and make sure that she knows we are always here if she needs any support.

We are so happy that Helen felt comfortable enough to accept our help, and that we were able to work together with MASH to get her off the streets and into a safe place to stay. It’s only through collaborating with other charities and support providers that we can get the best outcomes for our friends. We look forward to seeing our connections to other services in the city grow stronger and stronger.

*Name has been changed to protect our friend’s identity