Anna Smith is the CEO of One25, a Bristol-based charity who specialise in helping women to break free from street sex work and addictions and build new, independent lives. As a female led Bristol business, we are very proud to have supported One25 over the past few years, and privileged to have become part of their family. We caught up with Anna recently to learn how the charity has fared through COVID and her priorities for One25 women as we come out of lockdown.
By way of background, One25 has been working with street sex workers in Bristol for 25 years. Originally set up by volunteers (and now sustained by a team of over 200) it supports over 250 vulnerable and marginalised women in the city, in stepping away from the streets. They do not choose this work; it is dangerous and often their last resort to survive. Many have been subject to sexual abuse in childhood, and many experience domestic and sexual abuse and poor mental health, and about 80% experience homelessness. Many are also addicted to drugs or alcohol and this may drive their sex work, whilst some also support a partner’s addiction. The One25 van goes out five nights a week, as a first point of contact for women working on the beat. They offer a hot drink, a chat, gloves, condoms and hope that women will engage with their drop-in centre in St Pauls. Last year 53 women broke free from sex work, 65 maintained their exit and 44 were prevented from starting.
In the last five years, One25 have also expanded their services to host Pause Bristol, a programme of support for women who have had children permanently removed, helping them to recover from the trauma of this experience and to break the cycle of birth and removal.
Anna has been One25’s CEO since 2017, and is passionate about supporting women in achieving their goals and redressing the inequalities in society. She is committed to putting women at the heart of the service, giving them the love, and with them building the trust, to make choices for safer and healthier lives. What also gets her up in the morning is working with an incredibly committed team of 40 staff, who all stood by her recent decision to keep the charity office open during COVID-lockdown, because ‘we know that the women we work with often have nothing and no one’. They continued to offer food parcels, phone support and socially distanced walks with women throughout, until the past week when they have been confidently able to re-open the doors of the daily drop-in centre. Of the reopening, Anna is gladdened that ‘Once again we can offer food, a smile, advice and advocacy to help women remove the barriers which trap them in sex work’.
One25’s most recent venture is Peony, named by the women after the flower of compassion. It is the next step on their pathway, and offers a range of structured activities such as cooking, debt advice, yoga, a book club and one to one support, helping women to bond as a group and set goals. This stellar peer mentoring programme trains women with lived experience to support other women once like them, and last year they had 33 women volunteers, 19 who went on to access courses and one who secured a job. After initial pilot funding from two key funders in 2019/20, One25 are now seeking finances to expand this vital service from 3 to 5 days a week, which would enable further activities to be offered, including a specialist programme for recovery from domestic abuse which has escalated dramatically during lockdown. For Anna, this is one of her key priorities as we ease out of COVID, and she’s targeting the Big Give campaign later this year (matching funding from donors with individual giving) for raising £60K for Peony.
In these really difficult times every little helps. So if you too can help One25, be it as a champion, a volunteer supporter or to make a donation, and particularly if you can contribute to the heartening successes of the Peony programme, then please do get in touch with Anna and her team via www.one25.org.uk or social media @one25charity. They would love to hear from you.
“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without the love, care and support you have given me” Yvonne