"Such love.. When no one else could deal with me I had you."
From information from One25
One25 started in May 1995 in Bristol as a result of concerns from local agencies and churches about the health and wellbeing of female street sex workers. It was initiated by Val Jeal, who led a small but dedicated group of like-minded people in forming supportive relationships with the women.
Sister Annaliese Brogder tells the story. "Val came with a vision and it was contagious. I think that vision was very much from God. She came to a group of various representatives of the different churches that was meeting in our house and said, 'We've got to do something about these women. Who's going to do it with me?'. She was obedient to the promptings of God's Spirit and we felt that too. It was a calling."
They now employ around 39 full or part time staff and are supported by over 220 volunteers. The range of services they offer are designed to meet each woman at her point of need to give support for as long as she needs.
They meet women who are deeply traumatised from childhood abuse and violence. This leads to life situations where they are stigmatised, marginalised, locked out of society. Many are in crisis, and many are street sex-working. Yet these courageous women show tremendous skills and potential: in their supportive peer relationships, their creativity and humour, and their survival.
One25 worked with 234 women in 2021-22. 43 women exited street sex work, 134 women were safer from violence, 123 women were connected to specialist services to get the help they needed, and 77 women developed life skills and independence.
96% of the women have experienced domestic or sexual violence
92% have significant mental health needs
79% have chronic physical health needs
75% are homeless
86% are addicted to drugs or alcohol
56% have disclosed childhood abuse
They’re somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, even somebody’s mother… And they don’t just want to see them make safer, healthier choices – they want to see them thrive.
"I got food, a hot drink and a bit of warmth - they showed me the first glimmer of love, care and acceptance I had known for a very long time. It was the first human contact that didn't involve some kind of transaction from as far back as I can remember." Sandra
They offer a night outreach service, an afternoon drop-in centre, specialist caseworkers and a service to develop wellbeing and skills. Supporting women to move from crisis and trauma to independence in the community.
Here's Zara’s abridged story:
Since I was fourteen, sex and my drug habit went hand in hand. But it was later, when I picked up heroin and crack, that everything changed.
When you get that far into addiction, even the people that love you most can’t help anymore. I came to Bristol in my twenties and fell in love with my partner. We became friends with another couple who were using too; the woman said, ‘come out on the street with me’. It was a freezing cold November, I was ill, and I was desperate.
I’ll never forget the feeling of absolute horror when I realised girls were selling themselves for so little money. My reality was dawning on me. I continued on and off for about six months. I’d be affected for days, not being able to tell anyone, and the men just, uh, just made my skin crawl.
I saw the One25 outreach van a couple of times. I was in such a dark place and ashamed of what I was doing to survive but I remember how lovely the women were. When I first went to the drop-in one afternoon, I was greeted with the most friendly, lovely, warm smile. A worker there saw something in me that I didn’t feel or see at the time. She never judged me and very quickly I got the funding to go to rehab.
I couldn’t stick to it and my relapse was horrific. I left town, my partner was sent to prison and after nine months relying on sex work to live, I was really unwell. When I visited my sister after she had her first baby my Mum just burst into tears when she saw me. The using was getting really dangerous. I was badly raped and robbed by a dealer. I phoned my Mum just after my birthday and just said “I can’t do this, I don’t know what to do.” She took me in, I got 41 days clean, started doing recovery meetings in another city but started using again.
[Zara went into a cycle of detox and reuse, eventually ending up back in Bristol.]
I was sex-working heavily, but I’d got back in touch with One25. I remember my caseworker Jane would phone me all the time and wouldn’t let me go. I knew something was really wrong with my health. I was in hospital for three weeks, using the whole time. By that time, I’d given up on recovery. My sister rang and I remember her words really clearly. She was so consumed by fear she’d had to accept that I was going to die. She begged me to go to rehab and it was like I heard someone else’s voice just saying, “Yes I’ll go.” It wasn’t my voice, but I said it.
If it wasn’t for One25’s support, I wouldn’t be sat here. Without them, there’s no way I would have got to treatment. And look how it's been. I’ve stayed and I’ve done it! This time I had so much support behind me. Jane would send me cards and chocolate, she’d phone me and any time I needed anything, she was there.
It’s taken a long time to get to the point where I am even able to cry. Stuff only comes out when it’s ready. In rehab, I started to look at the childhood sexual abuse with my dad. As the drugs left me, my mind cleared. I knew this time if I didn’t beat this it’d kill me pretty quickly. There were loads of times when I wanted to run but instead, I faced it; every time I got a craving; every time I worked through something really painful. Then it’s like after a storm, the way the air feels after it’s rained, quieter, crisper.
One25 gives with such love: you just kept trying and you wouldn’t let go. When no one else could deal with me I had you. You saved my life.
Hear from Sister Annaliese in this 3 min video:
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