Brother Journal ︎ up -to-date info and resources ︎
Brother Journal ︎ up -to-date info and resources ︎
JULIANA FUTTER x OPEN DOORS
It’s women’s history month, and although there are still a lot of improvements to be made in the grand scheme of intersectional feminism, we’re happy that as a women-lead business we are able to do what we do. We thought we’d link up with illustrator Julianna Futter to create a limited edition print, the proceeds of which (as well as 10% of all profits from this month) will go to our chosen charity.
The print is a vibrant pink and purple number, combining sexuality with mythology and the psychedelic style of the 70’s. She’s a woman with a mission who oozes confidence, she’d look perfect in place on any wall.
Our charity of choice is Open Doors, Hackney. A confidential drop in service supporting people in East London working in the sex industry – an underepresented cause who sadly do not get enough help to do the work they do. Because of the way the healthcare system and government benefits system is run, sex workers often don’t get access to the tools they need to help them live healthily and improve their lives. Considering the recent sharing of stories of violence directed towards women on the street, we can’t imagine how dangerous and scary it must be to be a sex worker, especially a female one with no place to call home in the middle of a pandemic.
In order to get a better understanding of Open Doors and what they do, we decided to speak to their Coordinator, Jacqueline Vennard, who told us more about what she does, how sex workers have been affected by the pandemic and how we can help.
Price ︎︎︎ £30 incl. p&p
All the proceeds from this print go to
our charity of choice Open Doors, Hackney
Could you tell me a bit about Open Doors?
Open doors is a part of homerton hospitals sexual health services. We are a free and confidential service for sex workers in East London. Male, female, trans, various genders and ethnicities. It also includes off street sex workers as well as on street sex workers. We’re part of the NHS. We’re quite unique in that we’re a clinical and case management service.
When did it start?
Open doors has been going for decades, they initially had clinics for off street sex workers forever. In 2005 they started working with on street sex workers in Hackney.
When did you get involved?
I’ve been working with off-street sex workers for 20 years. I started working in Hackney in 1999 with on street and off street workers, visiting flats and saunas and brothels to meet those working in doors. Taking along sexual health nurses where they could have screens in their premises. We would go there when it was safe to do so - they always made it safe for us to attend. Sometimes if they’re working long hours and they’re very tired they wouldn’t be able to make it in the daytime hours at the clinics. Some of the barriers is the stigma attached to sex work, the language barriers and not wanting your family to know what they’re doing.
What is the case management service?
We actively support any sex workers who have needs outside of their sexual health such as social and welfare needs. The needs between the various cohorts are all quite different. On street sex workers, tend to be nearly 100% dependent on substances such as heroin and crack cocaine and other street drugs. They are very vulnerable groups with complex health needs. They’re not accessing services and the vast majority of them are homeless and sofa surfing. Often they’re having to stay at the homes of clients who they’re picking up for a safe place to sleep at the end of the night. Others sleep in doorways or under bridges. Many of them are not accessing GP services or health services and many have a lot of underlying issues relating to past trauma, mental health.
How do you reach on-street sex workers?
We deliver outreach, we go out onto the streets in an NHS call car late at night to find those individuals. We also get referrals from other services or self referrals. They hear about us then turn up at our door. They can come to our crisis drop in. They can see a nurse and have a full sexual health screen, they can also take a full drugs screen and access anything they might need. At the drop in they can see a caseworker, so that’s me or my colleagues and we start doing case work with them, so that’s looking into housing, application for benefits. Quite often when it comes to benefits you have to provide an ID and they need lots of information about where you’ve been staying and how you’ve been surviving so we help them get all that evidence. We sign them up to a GP and then we’ll communicate with GPs, advocate on their behalf. We’ll also apply to birth certificates for them so that they can prove who they are. We’ll also let individuals use the Open Doors office as their care of address. Quite often they don’t have a safe postal address for their documents to come to. Once they’re in accommodation we’ll change those addresses to where they’re living.
For a lot of our street based sex workers it’s a lot of crisis work, getting them safe accommodation, benefits, treatment. This initial crisis work, you might need to supply emergency accommodation or be placed into a hostel. Often they’re really bleak places, often there isn’t any bedding. They don’t have any hygiene products, they don’t have any nightwear, they don’t have any towels to shower with, so we can make them up a little care package so that they can spend their first night comfortably in a safe room.
How do off-street sex workers differ in what they need?
They work online, indoor premises, etc. Whose needs are quite different. They’ve been really affected by the pandemic because they haven’t been able to work, they haven’t been able to meet with any of their clients. There are a lot of financial struggles for a lot of off-street sex workers. We’ve been supplying them with foodbank vouchers, we received a small donation of tesco vouchers. For people who have been isolating we’ve been able to deliver that to their doorsteps and pick up medication for them and link them into services. Some of these individuals have language barriers, English may not be their first language so they don’t know what services may be available for them. Some offstreet sex workers have taken the opportunity to do some online learning, however the lack of finances has restricted them in a way to be able to access resources. We’ve been able to rely on donations from communities to find learning and education books for them, and exercise books.
How else does Open Doors aid sex workers?
As well as all the sexual health and case management stuff we work a lot around safety. We work very closely with services who give us resources, training and guidance. Sex worker peer groups, who give a lot of information to us about 50 safe working practices so we’ll take that out. There’s an organisation called ‘National Ugly Mugs’ which is a third party reprting scheme, who sex workers can reprt incidences to if they don’t feel comfortable reporting it to the police. We have an independent sexual violence advisor at open doors where we can support victims of crimes and sexual violence etc. There’s lots and lot’s of work that goes on.
How has the pandemic affected sex workers?
Yeah. I touched on the financial difficulties, for off street sex workers not being able to make appointments and meet clients because on the restriction of travel, but also the street based sex workers are extremely vulnerable to catching or spreading COVID-19. Right at the beginning a lot of them didn’t know what it was. They were also very frightened. A lot of people were closing their doors, they were fearful of covid spreading so they were forced to stay out in the streets and sleep in doorways or hallways in blocks of flats. There was a lot of working with local authorities to find safe accommodation and everyone worked really well at doing that. Everyone who we referred to the street links team were picked up. It was hard at first because some of them didn’t have phones, but we did a shout out and got a donation to buy some phones and put credit on them so that we could find them late at night. They would call them when they were on their night outreach and find out where they were.
It must be very dangerous, especially for women being on the street all night.
It’s not always safe for them to stay in the same place because they experience a lot of violence and abuse. Usually, to be picked up you have to stay in the same place for several nights. However the female homeless don’t like to bed down, they like to move around. If they bed down they will get abused and assaulted while they’re laying there. If they’ve got a phone the streetlink team can give them a call and find them.
It must have a big impact on mental health?
Once people are accommodated, lot’s of them are struggling with their mental health, with anxiety and feeling isolated. We check in with all our service users regularly to find out how they were coping, giving them information over the phone, linking them in with crisis helplines for mental health. But then we started to send people mental health packs. We would ask them do they have any interest, can they read? do they like reading? We put another shout out and we managed to get books and mental health packs and we were delivering them to people and they were very much appreciated. We’re still trying to keep that up, but these are not things that are supplied by the NHS so it’s about us depending on groups in the community that we’re working with and we get donations, which has been amazing.
For this month, Brother is donating 10% of all profits and all the proceeds from the new T-Shirt with Juliana Futter. What will these donations go towards?
All donations at this particular moment will be spent on the mental health support, the packages and delivering it to their homes. Also education as well as emergency supplies. Last week we had to help someone flee a violent situation, we bought her a train ticket. If there are pots of money there that have been donated to us and something urgent comes up, we may use that bit of money for something like this as well.
If anyone else wanted to donate money to open doors or volunteer, how would they do that?
Best way is to email. Open Doors works with lots of groups in the community, we put on a summer and winter event and organise day trips out for our service users.