Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced $4 million in federal funding today to help women leave the sex trade.
The feds will provide this money to the North End Women's Centre and its Moon Medicine Rising program, which provides transitional housing and supports for Winnipeg women who want to leave the sex trade.
"This program is exactly the kind of smart, innovative and evidence-based approach to crime prevention that Canadians expect," Goodale said. "I want to thank the North End Women's Centre for having the innovative thinking that put this all together."
"The funding announced today will allow the centre to offer personalized counselling and services that give women the support they need to break through barriers and succeed," Goodale continued. "It will also provide something that is absolutely indispensable, and that is safe transitional housing for women who have succeeded in leaving the sex trade after the program."
One woman who knows how much this program can help people is Jessica Pennock, who shared her story at the funding announcement on Wednesday.
She says she was abused in the sex trade for 12 years and in 2013 wasn't sure if she'd ever be able to look after her daughter again.
"When I first came to this program I had no boundaries, low self-esteem and was spiritually broken," Pennock said. "I had been physically, emotionally and mentally abused for years by predators and hadn't developed the skills to succeed in life."
Now she has a house, a youth-care diploma from Red River College and is caring for her daughter while also working as a mentor at the North End Women's Centre.
"I learned to identify the patterns of abuse in my relationships, identify my triggers, develop a relapse prevention plan and how to set goals and achieve them," Pennock said. "I was finally able to heal from the trauma of being sex-trafficked."
North End Women's Centre executive director, Cynthia Drebot says the funding will create eight transitional housing beds for women, as well as programming to help them get back on their feet. It will also go towards a four-part plan that includes relapse prevention, therapeutic support, cultural and spiritual support, counselling, mentorship and follow-up supports.
"To date, 51 women have made contact with the program and have received service, 23 have committed to joining the program and 13 women have already moved into our transitional housing," Drebot said. "Women have maintained recovery, gotten their children back, gone back to school, started volunteering and started working again."
Drebot says the extra housing is going to have a far-reaching impact on the women who need their services.
"There are some women that are homeless and living in unsafe situations and need to be in a different environment. We now have that option for them and that is key."