A mother’s story

Tracy C drive outreach van
Tracy C drive outreach van

Tracy C posted this on 09/03/2018

Tracy Connolly lifts spirits by being on the van, and has covered so many van shifts for us. We couldn’t have reached out to so many women without her help. She even took the van out on Christmas Eve! She tells us some of her and her daughter Natasha’s story.

I’m passionate for One25. I have been for many, many years. It’s a service that’s very much needed and I’d shout from the rooftops.

For me, Mother’s Day shouldn’t just be one day. Appreciation should be off the cuff. I speak to my children every day and express love. Even my grandson whose nearly grown up will say ‘love you, Mam’ in front of his mates. That means more than a card and a bunch of flowers. I just want to see that my children are happy.

I had four girls. How I ever survived I do not bloody know! I wouldn’t change it for the world. The eldest and the third [Natasha] were very much alike, and the second and the last were very much alike.

Natasha started street sex-working when she was 17 and she died when she was 31. All those years she was on and off class A drugs. Broadway Lodge [rehab and detox centre] was fantastic for her but she lost her placement. She died in someone’s flat, not of an overdose or anything like that; she’d come off drugs too quickly because she wanted to come home again. We found out she’d been abused as a girl and we never knew til about five years after she’d got really into drugs. She told me but it was too late to do anything.

One of her workers introduced me to One25. That was about eighteen years ago. There were periods of time when I didn’t see her or she was too chaotic and she didn’t want me to see how bad she was – even though I knew. There were a couple of times when I got calls from caseworkers asking me where she was and I was able to track her down. If there were times when we needed to speak to her because of her children or something to do with them, many a time I’d contact One25 and they’d give her a message and she’d contact me.

She had three children. My two eldest daughters are bringing her kids up. They’re not ashamed.

Every woman is somebody’s daughter, mother or sister. I don’t believe they street sex work because they want to – they do it because they have to. It’s survival. And for a lot, they’ve gone so far they don’t know how to get out, or they’re too scared, or they know nothing any different. Many don’t understand the situations they’ve reached until it’s way too late.

Natasha was fortunate in that I never gave up on her. A lot of the women haven’t got family. One25’s a service that’s very needed for those ladies out there. It’s really lonely, the street corner. How they can survive out there is amazing. I don’t think I could survive a night and I’m a strong person. The van is five minutes of safety, someone they can talk to, somewhere they can come to get help and support with anything really. Nobody judges them; we’re just there to make that difference. I’ve never come across anyone who wasn’t just so happy and thankful for what One25 does for them.

Because they are marginalised, they are downtrodden… to some people they’re the dregs of society. We get to see a different perspective. Such people don’t understand. I met someone who didn’t realise that there was prostitution in Bristol. Many of the public don’t know what life is like for the women. So many aren’t aware of the reality of issues like addiction. When people do understand – that’s when they’re willing to help.

Twice when I’ve been on the van I’ve seen one of Natasha’s friends. It can be sad when you see ladies get on who’ve started coming back out again. But that is the power of addiction and it’s the state of this country with benefit cuts. Certainly with Natasha, she tried a couple of times.

Natasha was really difficult and she was very well known. She was a character and she had such a huge heart. She’d give you anything you needed and more. I’d taken her to the police station once when she was wanted; I took her with a load of stuff to go up to prison with and the officer would come to the gate and greet her “Come in then!” and she’d had her hair done and her nails and everything! I used to love it when she was inside though cause I knew she was safe.

I love driving the van! You’re so much higher in the van and you can see so much. And when a woman comes on I can listen from the front in a different way to what we do in the back. I’ll have been volunteering for four years in April! It’s making a difference and it makes me feel positive to be able to help somebody, to talk albeit for minute or just to give them a sandwich or a hello, someone to be safe that they can rely upon. For some, the van might be the only way they trust to reach help. Or the only space where there’s no judgement.

Our links with local police are really good. The relationship they have with the women is also really positive and they encourage them to link in to One25.

One25 are passionate about the women. Every volunteer I’ve met and built relationships with – we’re all so diverse and from different backgrounds. But everybody’s there for the same reason – purely the passion and the love for the women.

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