Tammy Rogers, executive director of Magdalene House. (Contributed photo).

Red Deer non-profit wants to help sex workers find a better path

Magdalene House wants to reopen to offer day programs

They are part of society’s invisible labour pool, working in perilous conditions, with few rights.

An estimated 170 sex workers operate in Red Deer, based on information from police and local human service agencies, said Tammy Rogers, executive director of the local non-profit group Magdalene House.

She added most of these women conduct their business out of sight, soliciting clients through the internet and selling their bodies in private homes, motel rooms, or through shady outlets.

Rogers differentiates between the sex workers who have a level of control over their bodies and get to keep some proceeds of their transactions, and women who are completely under the thumbs of their pimps/boyfriends.

Sex workers in the latter group are coerced into handing over all their earnings, often made to feel they should do their so-called boyfriends this “favour,” said Rogers, who has 25 years experience working with various vulnerable populations.

She refers to this group as trafficked women. Rogers maintains sex trafficking is not what’s shown in the movies, as 98 per cent of these sex workers are Canadian citizens and were not abducted from poor countries.

But most still began selling their bodies at age 13 or 14, moving between different communities to stay under the radar.

Rogers added the majority of these women struggle with addictions and are treated like “slaves” by men who assert control by preying on their low self-esteem and their need to feel loved.

“They know what to say to form what these women think is a relationship. Through that connection, the trafficker takes advantage.”

Magdalene House operated for 18 months in 2015/16 as a recovery centre for sex workers who wanted to change their lives.

Rogers said 11 women were accepted into the residential program, but only three of them stayed for the duration because the pull of their addictions was too great.

The non-profit had to shut its doors due to a lack of funding in 2016.

But Rogers and board president David Bouchard have been launching fundraisers to reopen the facility — this time as a hub for day programs to help sex workers get housing, counselling, education and the life-skills training needed for a brighter future.

Rogers knows this will be a tough sell — both to a community that doesn’t see evidence of a problem, and to the sex workers themselves.

Research has shown these women make, on average, eight attempts to leave their pimps before they sever ties for good, added Rogers.

She believes Magdalene House, like similar facilities in Edmonton and Calgary, will be able to connect with this marginalized group and help impacted women access services.

Bouchard hopes to get funds from the Community Initiatives Program under the new United Conservatives government. He noted this is the first provincial government to come up with an official plan for dealing with sex trafficking, so he’s optimistic.

A fundraising Freedom Walk to raise money for Magdalene House will be held Sept. 7 in the Bower Ponds in the picnic area at Great Chief Park.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Red Deer wants no repeat of Calgary Stampede deaths

North American Pony Chuckwagon Championship

Central Alberta firefighters’ wildfire expertise recognized

Clearwater County Regional Fire Services chosen to create crack firefighting unit

Amazon Prime Day kind of ho hum for local retailers

E-commerce giant Prime Day sale runs Monday and Tuesday

Innisfail woman facing fraud charges

RCMP allege woman stole more than $54,000

Visitors flock to Bluebird Festival

Annual festival takes place east of Blackfalds

Chavis’ grand slam helps Red Sox beat Blue Jays 10-8

BOSTON — Rookie Michael Chavis hit a grand slam, Xander Bogaerts had… Continue reading

Group wants charges in horse deaths during Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races

CALGARY — An animal welfare group is renewing its call for cruelty… Continue reading

Cannabis producer Organigram Holdings Inc. reports $10.2M third-quarter loss

Organigram Holdings Inc. reported a third-quarter loss as revenue slipped amid lower… Continue reading

Churches jump into action with threat of immigration sweeps

CHICAGO — As a nationwide immigration crackdown loomed, religious leaders across the… Continue reading

Some in GOP rebuke Trump, but party leaders still silent

WASHINGTON — Top Republicans remained largely silent after President Donald Trump said… Continue reading

You don’t feel alientated, Trudeau tells western Canadians

National unity is not being threatened by the federal government’s attack on… Continue reading

Final blast of torrential rains unleashed by weakened Barry

NEW ORLEANS — Tropical Depression Barry spared New Orleans from catastrophic flooding,… Continue reading

Evidence erased by police would have freed wrongfully convicted man: defence lawyer

HALIFAX — A defence lawyer who fought to free Glen Assoun from… Continue reading

Most Read