Women Getting a Fresh Start

 By Dr. Chad Audi

Prostitution is often referred to as a “non-violent” or “victimless” crime. But the primary victim is the woman who sells her body ─ usually for drugs, alcohol or to just plain survive on the streets. However, lifestyles can be changed. The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) is involved in a groundbreaking rehab program for habitual, drug-addicted prostitutes, aptly called “Project Fresh Start.” Judge Leonia Lloyd of Detroit’s 36th District Court, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and the Detroit Bureau of Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment & Recovery administer the program, which offers treatment as an alternative to jail. The goal is for the women to remain drug free, acquire housing and land jobs. Most importantly, Project Fresh Start restores dignity and self-respect and the women become productive citizens of the community. DRMM provides substance abuse treatment, shelter, clothing, food, counseling, education and job skills for women in the program.

What makes a woman turn to prostitution or keep going back to it? Do substance abuse and sex addictions have that tight of a hold on her? Or sometimes is it to earn a little money on the side? Regardless of the reason, it can be overcome. An emphasis must be placed on teaching job skills to the women and furthering their education. Challenge their minds in a positive manner. Let’s face it, in many ways they already are “entrepreneurs” ─ selling a product and making money. They just need to be shown how to use their talents in constructive ways.

One prime example is “Tonyia.” She had a college degree, two children, a husband and a promising career as an addiction counselor when she got caught up in drugs herself. She went through tens of thousands of dollars in just a few months. “Crack has caused me to lose relationships with my family, it also cost me to fall out of fellowship with the Lord, my degree was no good to me whatsoever; it’s unethical for me to counsel and I was drug addicted, so I stopped,” she said. For Tonyia, prostitution offered a way to support her growing drug habit. But since she entered Project Fresh Start and came to DRMM, Tonyia’s life has changed dramatically. She looks forward to returning to her counseling career, and she has made amends with her children.

Project Fresh Start is part of Detroit’s successful Drug Treatment Court. Helping people overcome their drug addiction saves lives and reunites families. “One of the benefits of Drug Court is that when you graduate, your misdemeanors that are under the program are all dismissed. So you walk out with a clean record, hopefully with a new trade, a new education. We’ve got some ladies that go to college . . . we’ve got those that finish culinary art programs and other training programs; it depends on what their interest is. But the bottom line is to start living,” said Judge Lloyd.

Drug Court is holding its 10th annual rally on Tuesday, May 13, 2008 at 12:00 p.m. at Detroit’s Hart Plaza. The rally will be preceded by a press conference at 10:30 a.m.  The public event will include food, fun and entertainment.  Why not show up to support Judge Leonia J. Lloyd, the Drug Court team and the life-changing miracles occurring at 36th District Court.

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