Many of the women we meet do not feel worthy of love or healing. They do not see a path forward – only more of what they have known so far – until they are treated with respect and dignity and shown that they are loved.
In 2019, Franciscan Peacemakers purchased a building where we could expand our production facilities and open a public storefront. With the encouragement of a Clare Community resident, who is now our Outreach & Recovery Support Specialist, we also established a Drop-In Hospitality Center that could serve women who are sexually exploited.
Intentionally, we located the corner of North 34th and West Lisbon Streets, knowing our work could have the most impact and the most visibility to survivors if we were in the middle of the area of Milwaukee where drug use and sexual exploitation are highest. This location has provided us with the opportunity to meet women where they are and show them the love of Christ.
Whenever we are in the building, women who are currently involved in street prostitution, experiencing other forms of sexual exploitation, or struggling with active addictions are invited into the Hospitality Center, where they can receive respite from the street in a safe environment. While with us, women experience fellowship, receive hygiene products and essential clothing, and are able to use a clean restroom. In addition, we provide anywhere from 250-400 lunches per month to women in need.
In the Hospitality Center, we are there to listen, or to talk, and sometimes just offer a safe place to be off the street and away from the heat or cold. We have formed relationships with many of the women who visit, we love them, and they love us. We want the women who visit to understand that there is a place where they can come to be treated with dignity.
Once they feel that love and know they are worthy, healing is possible.
Mary Leach-Sumlin, Associate Director