“Not in my backyard” is a mentality that has stopped a special home for former sex-trade workers from setting up on Montreal’s West Island. After two failed attempts, the community organization La Sortie (The Way Out) is hoping the people of Vaudreuil-Soulanges will be more welcoming.
“There’s only a few resources in all Quebec to help victims,” La Sortie’s director Ronald Lepage said.
“We are pretty worried about the silence of everybody on that subject so that’s why we want to make changes.”
La Sortie is a non-profit organization that aims to help victims of sexual exploitation rebuild their lives. It’s estimated that 4,000 women and men between the ages of 12 and 24 are actively working in Montreal’s sex trade.
“I was looking through the classifieds. I see, ‘Oh in need of pretty girls, energetic fun.’ I was like, ‘Oh, I’m energetic, fun, I think I’m pretty,’ so I called the number,” Maylissa told Global News. The now 35-year-old is still outraged that no one ever questioned her age.
“This older guy who was in the Hells Angels had connections to all these crappy bars around the province, strip-bars that offered full services. He would take us there and no one ever asked me for ID,” she said.
Nearly two decades later, the mother of three girls wants nothing more than help other victims to escape the sex trade. She’s the new intervention counsellor at the group home designed to help former sex-trade workers get back on their feet.
“Just a fresh new start — being able to relax, you know, when you’re in the industry, you’re just surviving all the time,” she said.
It’s not the first time the organization attempts to set up shop in the Montreal area. There have been two failed attempts since 2013, mostly due to backlash from neighbours. The director is hoping to have more luck this time around. The biggest difference with the previous plans — no services will be offered on site.
“It’s only residential,” Lepage insisted.
Many residents in the area don’t seem to mind their new neighbours.
“I have no problem with it,” insisted Serge Beauchamp.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” said another resident, Rejeanne Imbeault.
The home has room for five women. Three have already signed up and are waiting to move in after the official opening on Sept. 7.
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The local mayor had no idea about the new renters in town until Global News informed him. He confirmed the home isn’t violating any bylaws and hopes his residents will welcome their new neighbours with open arms.
“This is not a third-world-country problem. This is a big problem here in Montreal,” Maylissa said. “If we don’t take responsibility as a community for these women, it’s not going away.”