More women exploited in street prostitution are seeking help at Glasgow's specialist drop-in centre following an extension of opening hours.
New improved operating hours at the Routes Out Drop-In Centre have made it easier for women to get help such as safety and harm reduction advice.
Glasgow City Council considers prostitution inherently harmful to those involved and, in partnership with other agencies, is working to reduce street prostitution in the city and offer women support, harm reduction advice and routes to a new life.
The drop-in centre is run by Community Safety Glasgow in partnership with Police Scotland, the council and the Third Sector. It is now open from 9pm to 1am on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Previously it operated three nights a week from 7.30pm to 11.30pm but the service was reviewed when the number of visits began to fall.
The new opening hours fit better with the times women are most active on the streets. This has led to a jump in the number of visits. The centre was visited almost 500 times in 2016/17, compared to just 115 visits in 2015/16. A total of 506 engagements with women were also undertaken by the outreach service in 2016/17 compared to 52 in the previous 12 months.
Specially trained staff offer support to all women involved in selling sex. They can get help with debt advice as well as accessing education and mental health services. Crisis intervention is also offered along with access to health, addiction and homelessness specialists.
Tips on protecting themselves from danger are also shared and violent and abusive men can be reported anonymously. Details on "abusive buyers" can also be recorded and shared with other women via the centre's Beware Book.
One service user in her 20s said staff at the centre had helped her "value herself" again.
She added: "I wasn't sure what this service could offer me and came across it by accident. I am so glad I did. I didn't imagine I could get so much support. This service has changed my life and I now value myself."
Another woman in her 40s credited the centre with "saving her life".
She said: "I feel the drop-in was very helpful. If it wasn't there I wouldn't have received an allocated worker from the day service who has helped me. I believe the help has saved my life."
In addition to the centre and the outreach team, the day service has five staff providing emotional and practical support to women involved in or considering involvement in prostitution. They offer a range of support from one-off assistance to longer term one-to-one support with an allocated worker.
Condoms, a needle exchange, fast track access to sexual health services and referrals to other NHS services are all available.
Cllr Jim Coleman, Chair of Community Safety Glasgow, said: "Women involved in selling sex are at high risk of harm. The centre's new opening hours have made it more accessible to women involved in on-street prostitution and this has led to an increasing number of visits.
"The centre is now open at times when the women are most active in the city centre. This makes it easier for them to call in - which means staff are able to reach more women to offer support and advice which can reduce the dangers associated with this type of activity. Anyone keen to change their lives and leave prostitution can also get support and assistance.
"I'd encourage anyone in this situation to visit the centre where the staff understand the complex issues involved."
Routes Out is working to increase intelligence on prostitution across Glasgow, support any women involved in prostitution, prevent women becoming involved, support women who want to leave prostitution, tackle demand for prostitution and reduce the impact of prostitution on communities.
The majority of service users accessing support through Routes Out are aged 35-44 and usually white Scottish. Around 20% are from outside Glasgow and most have a history of childhood sexual abuse or domestic abuse. The majority have addiction issues and chaotic lifestyles.
Further information on the support services available can be found at www.routesout.org