Amongst the hustle of Manchester’s vibrant city shows a darker side by night, around Piccadilly Station women start their night shift as a sex worker.
FOR sex workers, Christmas can be a daunting time, especially with the thought of no family or even a home to go to.
Manchester Action on Street health are appealing to Greater Manchester for Christmas gift bags to provide sex workers with basic items and treats.
When women are left with no money, shelter or food they turn to Manchester Action on Street Health (MASH). A registered charity that has operated since 1991, it is unique in its own way through their outreach services.
Volunteers attend sauna’s in the Manchester area where they provide sex workers with sexual health advise and resources. MASH also offer a unique mobile drop-in, this involves staff and volunteers taking out the MASH van at night to reach out to women working on the streets.
“Offering outreach services is at the heart of what we do. We take the van out from 8pm til midnight, four nights a week, offering women treatment and support.” said Helen Clayton, fundraising and marketing co-ordinator for MASH.
“MASH is so important because we are the only service across Greater Manchester for female sex workers. Women who sex work are an extremely marginalised group of women who need specialised support”, added Helen.
The drop-in clinic is situated in Manchester city centre near Piccadilly train station, close to what MASH call the ‘beat’ area’s which is where most sex workers are based.
“Women can get help with almost any issue that they have there’s always a full team available to help. Women can come in and have a hot meal, a chat and brew, they can take part in activities that we put on to help raise their self-confidence like drama and art as well as get help with addiction mental health”.
With the need for help for sex workers across Greater Manchester, places like MASH have provided help for 713 women over the past 12 months. Some women will receive one-to-one support with counselling or help in leaving sex work.
Since the Conservatives came into power homelessness has risen by 134 percent, it is in these circumstances where women may turn to sex work.
“Women are under financial pressure, under the bedroom tax for example, people start and return to sex work. There is more pressure on smaller charities and the funding they receive, women services are always the first to go so there are very few”, said Helen.
MASH is funded in a number of different ways. They receive funding from the local council, the big lottery and an array of groups and companies around Greater Manchester. The centre contains a small team of experts who then rely on their 65 volunteers.
With Christmas vastly approaching MASH want to do everything they can to make women feel happy during what is supposed to be a joyful time of year.
“It’s that question that a lot of people get asked… what are you doing for Christmas? And if you’re not doing anything it can be really upsetting and negative. We try and make Christmas special”, said Helen.
MASH are holding a Christmas fair on 8th December where the women that attend the centre will bake and create things which they will then sell at the fair.
“We have a Christmas fair which all the women are involved in and we make sure everyone recieves a present” said Helen.
MASH also hold a Christmas dinner for the women where they each recieve their Christmas gift bag donated by the public. They have requested the bag contains a pair of gloves, socks,deodrant, and an item of makeup. MASH urge the public to drop of the bags at MASH drop in centre by Wednesday 13th December.
To find out more about how to donate a Christmas gift bag go to https://www.mash.org.uk/2017/11/09/mash-need-christmas-gift-bags/
All images provided by MASH.