Cincinnati Union Bethel celebrated a special graduation on Friday, April 23, when sixteen women, who had once been living on the streets, graduated from the Off the StreetsSM program, a program that helps women involved in prostitution move toward safety, recovery, empowerment and community reintegration.
MUSE Cincinnati Women's Choir sang as the graduates entered, and Vice-Mayor Roxanne Qualls addressed the graduates, telling them, You are inspirational role models for the rest of us because it takes courage to make changes in your life.
Each woman who enters the program is paired with a facilitator who creates an individualized plan to meet her needs. Women are connected to needed services, like recovery programs and medical care. In addition, women attend classes about budgeting, self-esteem, job readiness, and healthy relationships. Of the women who stay in the program 30 days or more, over 80% of them secure housing and find employment or go back to school.
Graduate Billie Jean is one of those women. After years on the streets, she is now going to college. During the ceremony, she said, Off the StreetsSM is the first thing I've ever finished except a prison sentence or a hit of dope . . . we're not supposed to love judges, but I love [Judge Julia Stautberg] because she believed in me and sent me here.
Each woman received a certificate, a quilt from Quilting Queens, heart-shaped pendant designed by Scott Reising of Hyde Park Jewelers, a gift bag courtesy of the firm Ulmer & Berne, a copy of Patsy Malone's The Making of a Madame, and a pin individually designed by Hummin'B Creations.