A safety-based approach at the community level
When Rachel Braithwaite moved into her Barton Street East neighborhood she was annoyed by the johns propositioning her and thought of the sex workers standing on street corners as a problem.
But that has changed since she and others formed what they are calling a safety committee – a sort of subcommittee of the Gibson and Landsdale Area Planning Team, informally called the GALA hub. The area is bounded by Wellington Street, Sherman Avenue, Main Street and the north-end CNR tracks, and is home to nearly 5,000 residents and 300 businesses.
“The women are not a blight on the community, they’re an asset,” Braithwaite said, adding that the committee is not working to get rid of the women, but rather to work with them and make them feel safe.
She and her family used to live in Oakville, but about five years ago decided they wanted to move somewhere where they felt they could help. Instead of helping Hamilton, she now feels the vibrant and engaged community has helped her.
It is because of the committee’s progressive way of thinking about engaging sex workers that Hamilton Elizabeth Fry Society executive director Leanne Kilby said she agreed to join the committee about six months ago.
“This community is not about gentrification, not about stopping (the women),” she said, adding that they are all “fibres of our community.”