Drop-in centre for sex workers opens doors to new space in London

A drop-in centre for sex trade workers offers a place for women to come in, chat, warm up, and build relationships.

Until now, the drop-in centre has shared a space with an artists' co-op on Dundas Street

Julie Baumann, left, stands with Magdalen Moulton-Sauve, in front of the new location of Safe Space, a drop-in centre for sex workers. The two are co-ordinators of the centre. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

There are not a lot of places in London where sex trade workers can go, judgement free, and feel welcome. 

But on Rectory Street, in a storefront tucked away just off Hamilton Road, there are couches, a microwave and a place to chat and take a load off. 

For the first time in eight years, Safe Space London, a drop-in centre for sex workers, is getting its very own home. 

Until this week, it shared a space with an arts co-operative on Dundas Street. 

"It's important to have our own space, so that women know they can come and this is a place where they do not face stigma," said Julie Baumann, a co-founder and coordinator of the space. 
Some of the signs that will soon hang on the walls of Safe Space London, a drop-in centre for sex workers, which is opening in a new location this week. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

"Women can come in, take a break. It's a nice place to warm up, there's a lot of relationship-building that happens. There's usually a lot of chatting, a lot of joking around." 

There's a space in the back where more serious, one-on-one discussions can happen, but the goal of the centre is to be a welcoming respite, not a place to get women out of the sex trade. 

"We all try to do the best we can, all the volunteers, to make it an open, welcoming space for sex workers to come in. If a woman comes in and wants to continue her work in a safer way, we can assist in that. If a woman wants to move on from the trade, we're also happy to help her to do that," Baumann said. 

New space allows for more hours, programs

On an average night, 15 to 20 women use the drop-in centre, which is open Mondays and Tuesday evenings and nights. 

"We believe that women in the sex trade know what to do to make their work safer," Baumann said. 

The centre operates a bad date line, where women can report clients who were abusive or didn't pay, to warn others. 

There's also a check-in line, where they can leave messages about where they're going — a safeguard in case they go missing.

The centre also offers some programs, such as budgeting or information about payday loans, but is more of a community space than a place where service providers go to meet clients. 

"Our own space allows us to have the flexibility to be open more often and offer more programs," Baumann said. 

About the Author

Kate Dubinski


Kate Dubinski is a radio and digital reporter with CBC News in London, Ont. You can email her at kate.dubinski@cbc.ca.