New 12-month program seeks donations to help women get out of prostitution

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Putting an end to prostitution. Some south St. Louis City residents, businesses, and non-profits have launched a joint effort to help women stop working the streets.

The concept is fairly new, but organizers tell FOX 2 that it’s already working with more and more women joining every month in order to receive help.

The program is called Pathways from Prostitution.

Earlier this summer, police conducted several prostitution busts in south city. A majority of them concentrated on South Broadway and Meramec Street.

“I think sometimes we get the brand on it that it’s just women but it’s men also,” said Lynette Murphy, who has lived in the area for 20 years.

“I had an experience this summer with a friend of ours, whose son who was prostituting."

Like many other local residents, Murphy said she was tired of it.

“I thought, ‘Oh God, I am just so sick of this,' you know? I pay taxes, I cut my grass,” she said.

But then Murphy said she met Sister Connie Probst with the St. Anthony’s Food Pantry. Probst is one of several local non-profits who helped come up with Pathways from Prostitution.

“Assist women maybe men too who wish to move out of prostitution and into a healthier lifestyle,” Probst said.

Murphy said that she wanted to join in on the effort and be a part of the solution. Twice a week, she visits the food pantry to help clean and maintain the upkeep.

“I had to ask myself, ‘Hey, how can I help?’ I can’t just point the finger and think that this is going to go away,” she said.

The 12-month program provides one-on-one talk sessions, donated clothes and food, resources to help women wean off of drugs, find a job and to eventually get off the streets and into a safe haven.

“Even the judges have said that if (participants) stay in the program a year and are faithful to it, that they will really consider wiping away any of their warrants or any problems they had with the law,” Probst said.

The program is partnering with several other organizations such as Helping Hand Me Downs, an agency that serves women and children.

“We’ve got a coach on staff that will work with them and really try to get their mind set back,” said founder and director Stephanie Williamson. “It’s a core alignment approach. The whole focus is to get them back to feeling good about themselves, making decisions proactively and living a life that they feel good about.”

Probst said that Pathways From Prostitution needs continuous assistance and funding to support the participating women until they get their feet back on the ground.

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