Ottawa

Daisy's Drop-In receives community safety award for helping sex-trade workers

Daisy's Drop-In is the kind of program you've likely never heard of, unless you need it. But program for sex workers will be recognized at the Ottawa Community Safety Awards on Monday.

Drop-in offers food, needles and counselling Friday mornings

Counsellor Nikki Jalbert helps street-based sex-trade workers at the award-winning Daisy's Drop-In. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

You've likely never heard of Daisy's Drop-In, unless you need it.

But one morning a week it's a haven for some of the city's sex-trade workers, offering them a hot breakfast, clothes, clean needles and counselling in the Carlington neighbourhood.

On Monday night the program will be recognized at the Ottawa Community Safety Awards.

"The women always say how they look forward to the Friday morning because they know they're going to get the breakfast. We've established kind of a restaurant style thing where they can order whatever they want and I'll try to make it for them," said counsellor Nikki Jalbert.

"They like to stand around this counter and just talk about the week and sometimes they'll get into really deep things. It's cool to watch them open up and start to trust."

Jalbert said most of the women have been in the sex trade for years and use drugs. Their youngest regular client is 17 years old and the oldest is 56.

Building trust

The drop-in opens at 5 a.m. on Fridays to catch the women as they finish work, explained Jalbert. Besides warmth and food, the program also brings in an Ottawa Public Health nurse.

We're not in the business of talking women out of the sex trade. We're in the business of supporting women where they're at now.- Nikki Jalbert

"If the women have recently had a bad experience we offer something called the bad date list report where they can report the event ... so other women can be aware of a certain person who is trying to hurt people," said Jalbert.

Jalbert has been working at the drop-in for two years and has slowly cultivated relationships with the women.

"They start to confide in you and let you know a little bit about their past, a little bit about where they're living now and what you can do to do support them," she said.

"We're not in the business of talking women out of the sex trade. We're in the business of supporting women where they're at now. And they have a lot of really great qualities and we help them explore that a little bit and build on that."

"I'm blessed. I'm blessed to work with these women."

Anyone who needs to access Daisy's Drop-In should contact the Carlington Community Health Centre at 900 Merivale Road.

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