Access to Safe Shelter for Women in Sex Work

Increasing access to safe housing for women in street prostitution in Milwaukee County

Full Project Name:Access to Safe Shelter & Housing for Women in Street-based Sex WorkPrimary Community Organization:Benedict CenterPrimary Academic Partner:Staci Young, PhD, Family and Community MedicineAward Amount:$349,886
Award Date
January2018
Project Duration:48 months

Project Description Narrative:


Women involved in street prostitution indicate that homelessness is a primary problem and barrier to exiting the sex trade. Women at the Benedict Center's Sisters Program frequently report trading sex just to have shelter. However, no women reported that they had used emergency housing services or Section 8 vouchers designed to provide housing to the vulnerable or disabled. Their inability to access safe housing and shelter increases their risk for exposure to poor health outcomes such as violence and victimization, substance abuse and mental illness. This project will create public health-based changes in policies and protocols to increase access to safe shelter and housing for women in street prostitution in order to reduce their risk of violence and injury in Milwaukee County.

Community partners:
IMPACT 2-1-1, City of Milwaukee

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


  • Obtained membership in the Continuum of Care (CoC), the largest collaboration of organizations to provide temporary and short-term housing in Milwaukee County, to educate and partner around the unique housing needs and risks facing women in the street-based sex trade
  • Created a deeper understanding of the complexities of shelter and housing systems in Milwaukee County and connected Milwaukee County Housing Division navigators with Sisters staff, resulting in an increase in the number of women the Continuum of Care (CoC) identifies and assesses for housing
  • Led to 112 women being connected to the housing system, which represents 44% of the women that attended Benedict Center drop-in center and advocacy services
  • Created a Category 4 Risk Assessment Tool in the CoC system and added targeted outreach to the population and identification of sex trafficking concern as a factor for prioritization for Category 1/Literally Homeless
  • Leveraged project efforts to apply for increased housing resources specific to women in the street-based sex trade

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