Off the Streets (OTS) assists women involved in prostitution move towards safety, recovery, empowerment, and community reintegration.
OTS provides a safe, welcoming, and non-judgmental environment for women who are involved in prostitution and helps them explore positive life changes. Focus areas include emergency needs, housing, medical care, mental health, substance abuse, education, and employment.
Women participate in daily education and support groups that assist them in their recovery and empowerment process and address topics such as life skills, health and well-being, relationships, and self-esteem. Referrals are also made to community resources as needed.
Off the Streets was a 2008 National Mutual of America Community Partnership Honoree, and the recipient of the 2007 Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce: Non-Profit of the Year award, and the 2006 Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations Program Excellence Award. We are one of the few programs in the country to address this population of women.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I help the program?
Off the Streets has incredible support from volunteers who facilitate groups throughout the day. However, you may also help by sharing our story with people you know, hosting a benefit such as a potluck dinner, hosting an activity for the women, or writing letters of encouragement. For information about volunteering, please contact Garron Segal at 768-6930.
Donate items. Because women often come literally from off the streets, we provide personal care items, undergarments, clothing, single bed sheets, towels and washcloths, and non-perishable food. We are always in need of these items. We also need bus tokens and small gift cards to stores such as Kroger, Remke, or Walgreen’s.
Attend the Style & Steps for OTS, which benefits the program. Each year the event is in November, and it’s always fun!
Purchase a pendant. The sterling silver, one-of-a-kind necklaces are available for purchase and the proceeds benefit the program. Please click here for more information.
How did the program get started?
Prostitution in Cincinnati was increasing in the late 1990’s, affecting jail overcrowding and concerns from the community. Members of the criminal justice system, social service, and treatment agencies recognized that something needed to be done. Women were being arrested for solicitation, serving their time and getting out of jail with no new skills and without addressing any issues that would lead to rehabilitation. The women would go back to the streets, the only life they knew, and the process would start again. It was a vicious cycle that was costing taxpayers and burdening the justice system.
The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati (now Interact for Health) provided funding for a team of 30 people from 20 community agencies to jumpstart the planning process and eventually create Off the Streets. Cincinnati Union Bethel became the lead agency and the first group of women joined the program in 2006.
What makes Off the Streets so successful?
First, the program is successful because of the community collaboration. The program is able to take advantage of existing community services without duplicating services.
Secondly, the program is successful because of the peer-facilitator model. Each woman is paired with a facilitator who has survived the streets herself so she understands what each woman is experiencing. This structure also establishes an open, safe environment for the women to share their stories. There is no judging or shame.
Third, the program addresses issues specifically related to prostitution while meeting other treatment needs. As an example, a large majority of the participants are involved in drug use so we connect the women to addiction treatment services and self-help programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous, while they work on other life skills issues through the program.
Finally, the program is personalized. Each woman is paired with a facilitator who designs an individualized plan to meet her needs and accomplish her goals – such as returning to school or gaining employment.
Who are the women who are involved in the program?
The women range in age from 18 to 57 years old, with 35 as the average age. They are equally split racially. Their educational levels vary too, from those without a high school diploma to those with a master’s degree. Most have graduated from high school.
Each woman’s story is her own, but each one is a story of survival. The women end up on the streets for various reasons such as basic survival needs (food, diapers for a grandchild, housing), addiction, or as a result of prior abuse.
How does Off the Streets impact the community?
According to the Cincinnati Police Department, there has been a solicitation charge in every neighborhood in Cincinnati. We have also received referrals from other Hamilton County communities and neighboring counties. Not only does prostitution affect the women and their families, it also affects the community environment, safety, and appeal. Off the Streets provides opportunities for women to become positive, productive members of the community.
What services are offered?
Our peer staff work with clients to coordinate the services needed to work on their recovery plan. All services are coordinated on an individual basis to fit each woman’s unique needs. Clients participate in some services at our location, which help foster a sense of community and self esteem. These may include journaling, employment and life coaching, and a knitting circle.
Our staff also makes referrals to other community-based programs for:
Mental health services
Substance abuse treatment
How can I participate in the program?
We work with any woman who has experienced prostitution and wants to make life changes. The program accepts referrals from many sources including:
The criminal justice system
Other treatment programs
Contact our Outreach and Intake Coordinator at 513-378-2534 to participate.
How long is the program?
There is no set time for the program. Each woman makes progress in her recovery at her own pace. If a woman is referred by the Court or Probation, she may be required to participate in a specified amount of services. However, the program will work with women as long as needed. Most women participate for about one year.
When is the program?
The program operates Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Want more information?
For referral information, contact our Outreach and Intake Coordinator
For general information, contact:
Mary Carol Melton, Program Director
Karla Holmes, Program Manager
Words of Wisdom
Women who stay 30 days or more in OTS achieve self-sufficiency.
We rely on your support to better the lives of women and children. We simply couldn’t do what we do without you. Please consider donating to Cincinnati Union Bethel or directly to one of our programs: early childhood education, the Anna Louise Inn, or Off the Streets. Donate & Register Here »
News & Events
Giving Tuesday – December 2nd
November 25, 2014
There's Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, but we hope you'll participate in Giving Tuesday by donating to your favorite nonprofit on Tuesday, December 2nd. It's the perfect way to give the holiday spirit! Read full story »