The Sisters Program helps women in the street-based sex trade find hope and live healthier and safer lives through a harm reduction and housing-first approach.
Many women at the Sisters Program have dealth with violence all their lives including childhood sexual abuse, repeated sexual assaults as a teen and adult, violent relationships and past experiences of being trafficked as well as current traffickers controlling them.
In addition, many of the issues women face are systemic harms - poverty, substance use disorders, and homelessness - that require community solutions like more affordable housing, more living-wage jobs and changes to policies that stop women from making progress in their lives. Milwaukee struggles with key resource gaps and barriers in these same areas.
We believe all women in the street-based sex trade should be treated with dignity and respect.
Our program uses a stages of change approach, understanding that not all women are in the same place in the process of change. By addressing a person’s basic needs through holistic case management and a network of services, we can focus on the root causes of many of the issues the women face. Clients can take part in counseling sessions and work on long-term goals addressing substance use, housing, or other needs.
We seek solutions informed by women with lived experience, in partnership with neighborhoods, organizations and government institutions to advocate for:
- adequate, affordable and accessible housing
- drug treatment
- trauma counseling
- prevention of violence against women, including sex trafficking sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse
Public health systems like housing and treatment tailored to help women in the street-based sex trade are the solutions we need instead of the current criminal justice approach. The revolving cycle of arrests, jail and release is not a long-term solution for anyone. Instead, it creates additional harm and fails to address women’s underlying needs.
Our program is prepared to help women find safety and healing while advocating for adequate, affordable and accessible housing, drug treatment, trauma counseling, and prevention of violence against women.
Can be reached at: (414) 793-5883
Street outreach has been an essential component of the Sisters Program since the program’s inception. Today it covers key neighborhoods on the near north and near south side of Milwaukee where the need is greatest. The first street outreach staff were two graduates of the Benedict Center with lived experience in the community. We are currently exploring how to develop peer outreach specialists to join the current team.
Our outreach teams have become a trusted presence in our community with a client population that traditionally has deep hesitation to trust. The dedicated staff meet our clients on the street, respond to their calls, and invite them to the Drop-In Center for further assistance with basic needs, case management and counseling.
Our street outreach staff might spend several weeks meeting with clients before the clients feel comfortable going to the Drop-In Centers. The program has evolved to incorporate more mobile case management and housing assistance, enabling the team to move clients more quickly and seamlessly into housing and other needed services.
Our Drop-In Centers offer a safe place where women can find basic needs like food and clothing, and also gain access to longer-term resources like crisis support, counseling, sexual assault advocacy, housing navigation, case management, and connection to other critical resources.
Our staff provide a caring lifeline, both of compassion and of needed resources. The women we serve know that at the Sisters Program they will be valued and supported, and that we are ready to assist in a multitude of ways at their pace and when they are ready.
As a harm reduction program, we focus on every step of progress no matter how big or small. From a new client finally trusting one of our staff enough to talk about her life, to a longer-term client making the step to medication-assisted treatment for her substance use disorder, our staff are walking beside our clients, encouraging them, listening to their pains and fostering their hope. We celebrate every conversation and every step forward in our client’s self-identified goals.
209 W Orchard St.
Located in Hope House (1st floor)
Hours: M-Th, 9am-2pm
1609 W North Ave.
Hours: M-Th, 10am-3pm
If you see a woman in your area you’re concerned about, please contact Darlene, our Outreach Specialist, at 414-793-5883 or email her at email@example.com. Include the location of the woman and any physical identifying information (no pictures please). Darlene will reach out to the woman on her next outreach. Our outreach team works from 11am to 4pm. Monday through Thursday.
Sisters South Advisory Board
The Sisters Program is thankful for its advisory board and faith partners, including the Sisters Program South Collaborators, which includes:
- Ascension Lutheran Church (ELCA)
- Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes
- Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa
- School Sisters of Notre Dame
- School Sisters of St. Francis
- Sisters of Charity of St. Joan Antida
- Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi
- Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis