Started about three years ago by one of the staff here (who just happens to come from Leicestershire, England) it aims to end injustice in this city by combating human trafficking, domestic violence, economic inequality and issues faced by immigrants. They do this by working with existing organisations, engaging politically, raising awareness, providing resources and trusting in a faithful God.
They have numerous ongoing projects which are changing lives in this area. Every Monday afternoon they have a nail day where women can come into the Ellis Room and receive a free manicure. This is effective because it encourages both conversation and physical touch, affirms dignity and builds relationship. It enables the team to show and speak of the love of God with women who often feel worthless and unlovable. They also take small gift bags to the women in the strip clubs on broadway, having prayed there for almost ten years and built relationships with bouncers, club owners, and the girls who work there. They have larger events every quarter for the women of the Tenderloin and also take on individual case work, supporting women over a lengthy period of time in getting themselves back on their feet.
All of this has to take place because of the huge part prostitution and sex trafficking plays in the culture of San Francisco. Ever since the city was established, prostitution has been rife. Three years ago it was very almost legalised in a vote where 46% of the population said it should be. Across the city there are 150 Massage Parlours, of which up to two thirds are fronts for brothels and trafficking. Some estimate almost 90 of those brothels are in the Tenderloin alone. These no longer come under the jurisdiction of the police but the Health Board and there is only one inspector who visits them all. If one is to be closed down they must receive three red flags from the inspector in an eighteen month period but for him to visit each one three times in that times period is very difficult. There are also serious issues in street prostitution, with the majority of the women whom we see on the streets of the Tenderloin having sold themselves at some point. One of the scariest things is that upwards of 90% of the women trapped in prostitution have been in the industry since they were only 13-15.
There have been small victories recently though as a safe house has finally been set up in the city and as they see clients getting back on their feet. A collaborative has been established since the Proposition K vote which brings together both secular and christian organisations from across the city to combat the issue. And awareness of everything that goes on behind the closed doors is increasing throughout the city.
The most that they can currently do with the “massage parlours” is pray. This can be frustrating for the kids as they feel powerless to do anything but they were praying in the broadway district, where they now minister to girls in the strip clubs, for ten years before they got access to them. But we absolutely believe in a God who is powerful to answer and mighty to save. So we cry out to him on behalf of the women, repent on behalf on those who abuse them and trust that He will work in their lives and bring redemption to this city.