Everyone has a HISTORY
Faced with the realities of human trafficking, sexual exploitation, crime and violence, Gerry Plunkett - citizen of the West Island of Montreal – mobilized his compassion to start an initiative : the establishment of a non-profit organization helping victims of sexual exploitation. A team from the health, business, political, community and academic spheres joined him in the spring of 2012. Together, they will form a committee with the goal of creating the charitable organization.
Since its official launch on July 3, 2013, the organization's mission has been to provide assistance and support to women who are victims of sexual exploitation, aged between 18-35. On the same date, the committee also chose it's director, Ronald Lepage, responsible for development of the organization.
[The Way Out] mission has been to provide assistance and support to young women victims of sexual exploitation, aged between 18 and 35 years old
Following a first strategic planning, The Way Out was set up to tackle the issue of developing a housing center. The main obstacle was the development of a shelter. Two years were spent in an effort to gain access to the "Accès Logis", Montreal's housing branch program. Unfortunately, they changed their admissibility requirements in that time, making us no longer eligible. The search for a suitable residential property therefore became a priority. However, due to the lack of knowledge regarding our organization by the general public and urban planning regulations, it was not until August 2015 that this project became possible. Despite the enthusiasm of the borough's elected representatives and citizens, we withdrew from the process of amending the planning by-law in October 2016 because the immediate neighborhood was unwilling to accept this type of clientele close to home. Despite this setback, The Way Out has had a pending offer to purchase a house in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region since February 2017 and fundraising activities for its acquisition are still ongoing.
The delay in housing services has led to a significant change in the development of support services and in awareness and education efforts. The lack of knowledge regarding the issue at hand and the types of services we offer consequently required us to focus more on raising awareness. Since 2015, we have worked to educate network stakeholders and the public about the need for social aid for victims of sexual exploitation. This includes producing text and video clips in social and traditional media. November 12, 2016 saw the birth of our annual fundraising gala. In addition to generating financial aid, we are able to raise awareness and garner media attention.
As a result of our outreach efforts, we received an invitation from Public Safety Canada to become a candidate for coordinating a research project to develop a housing intervention model for victims of trafficking for the province of Quebec. The goal of this project is to give us more resources to mobilize the required partners in the effort to offer a housing solution in order to escape prostitution.
During the long process of setting up the shelter, the management and volunteer staff of The Way Out have offered direct support services to women who are victims or are at risk of sexual exploitation. Since April 2016, we have performed hosting, assessment and orientation activities. This was done through a telephone help line and individual support, as well as accompanying women to the various social services of the Montreal area. These activities were consolidated by the recognition of the Ministry of Justice through the funding of the "Alternative to Sex Work" program. It aims to accompany the victims of sexual exploitation that have decided to leave their abusive environment. The participants in this program express the need to regularize their social situation and health and to find housing and employment in order to facilitate their social reintegration. Therefore, on August 1, 2017, The Way Out hired a social worker whose main responsibility is to support these women in their social reinsertion.
Let's make history together and offer them The Way Out !