From our friends at Hillary Ronen’s office:
SAN FRANCISCO — Supervisor Ronen announced today that a new pilot aimed at addressing public safety concerns around sex work in the Mission will start in January .
Street and survival sex work have taken place on Capp Street and Shotwell Street in San Francisco for several decades. Neighbors often call our District 9 office with frustration from excessive noises, acts of violence they witness against sex workers, and both Johns and pimps speeding with their cars up and down the street. The City’s ongoing strategy has been to perform SFPD sting operations to arrest solicitors and pimps. These sting arrests end up pushing sex workers to the next street over, where the same problems may arise.
“Residents who live in these hot spot areas regularly contact me very upset — not only do they often hear late night arguments, but they can actually hear women being beaten. One constituent told me he witnessed a woman being beaten with a pipe outside his window,” said Supervisor Ronen. “We need the police to be actively monitoring these areas, but that is not enough. I don’t want to continue doing the same thing if it yields the same unwanted result. I want us to engage directly with the sex workers and increase public safety for everyone in the neighborhood.”
Due to historical police mistreatment, women in the sex trade are often afraid to report violence to law enforcement, making it difficult for the District Attorney’s office to prosecute exploitative and violent johns and pimps that have been arrested in these sting operations.
Supervisor Ronen is seeking to address the root of the problem. Ronen is partnering with St James Infirmary for a pilot program in the Mission. St. James Infirmary is an occupational health and safety clinic with expertise in providing culturally competent, harm-reduction medical and social services for sex workers since 1999.
Supervisor Ronen funded this pilot program through the city’s budget process. The funds will enable St. James Infirmary to create a peer-based outreach program in the Mission to directly engage with people in the sex trades during peak hours, from 12:00am to 5:00am, to find out their health and safety needs.
“St. James Infirmary is an organization that focuses on the needs of sex workers by involving them directly in the services and advocacy they receive to be healthy and safe. We are excited about this partnership with Supervisor Ronen’s office in which we will have a mobile unit in the Mission district every week. The initiative will be staffed by peers to address the comprehensive needs of sex workers in the neighborhood” said Johanna Breyer, Interim Executive Director.
Approximately 70 percent of St. James Infirmary participants have never disclosed their occupation to a medical or social service provider, fearing poor treatment. With this new program, sex workers would be able to get help on the street, and gain access to healthcare support and empowerment opportunities.
“This partnership is an innovative way to make contact with sex workers, in particular women, on the street who have been incredibly isolated, to know if they are victims of violence, and see if they are looking for another way of life,” said Supervisor Ronen.