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:36 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

Project Updates:


  • 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
  • Expanded the group of stakeholders to include domestic violence shelters
  • Established a meeting to identify unique needs of women in the sex trade and build collaborative solutions to better serve this population
  • Created a deeper understanding of the complexities of shelter and housing systems in Milwaukee County that is improving the project's ability to help women navigate and connect to services and consider future steps
  • Connected Milwaukee County Housing Division navigators with Sisters staff to assess and begin working with 38 women
  • Drafted an Acuity Assessment for Category 4 homelessness (includes sex trafficking)
  • Established key strategic messaging points for community engagement

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