Pawtucket Citizens Development Corporation’s Project RENEW: Revitalizing & Engaging Neighborhoods by Empowering Women, recently unveiled a DVD, the five-minute version of which is posted on YouTube and features testimony from commercial sex workers in their own words, as well as RIDOC Probation & Parole Officer Adrienne McGowan and street outreach worker Felicia Delgado.
Dedicated to curbing prostitution in the Pawtucket/Central Falls neighborhood where it had a stronghold for decades, the program seeks to help/assist commercial sex workers caught up in the grip of addiction to take the first steps to changing their lives. Through a collaboration of community agencies including the Pawtucket and Central Falls Police Departments, the RIDOC, substance abuse treatment providers, and housing organizations, the project connects at-risk women to residential treatment, detox, mental health services, DCYF/courts assistance, HIV prevention and basic needs.
Felicia Delgado, a woman whose life experience makes her a powerful role model for commercial sex workers looking to turn their lives around, was hired as RENEW’s first and only Outreach Worker, and continues to this day in that role. Project RENEW is the only project in the state which focuses exclusively on commercial sex workers (CSW).
Corrections Director A.T. Wall is pleased to talk about the program’s successes to date. “Project R.E.N.E.W. is an ideal example of the progress that can be made when strong partnerships are formed,” he says. “The difference in the Barton Street Neighborhood since the project began is palpable, and because of it, lives have been transformed – both the lives of women who are no longer drowning in the vicious cycle of a life of prostitution, but also innocent citizens who make their home there and want to live in a clean, safe, and healthy environment.”
RIDOC Probation Officer Adrienne McGowan, one of the Steering Committee members featured in the film, is proud to be associated with Project RENEW and to have witnessed its ever-increasing impact since it began three years ago. She says the Pawtucket Probation and Parole Office has seen many women benefit from the program. She is also pleased that officers are now able to refer probationers to the HIV prevention classes being taught by Felicia Delgado through a grant Project RENEW received from the Department of Health. The women receive a certificate of completion for participating and one client seen on the film says she had never completed anything in her life until that class. Officer McGowan says the ceremonies are very moving and also sees their value in providing important health information that helps women stay healthy and safe.
The Pawtucket Citizens Development Corporation (PCDC), along with the Pawtucket and Central Fall Police has received grant money over the years to keep the project going. The video was created with grant money as was a new strategic plan, which will be launched soon. The 20-minute version of the video, which includes more in-depth stories of some of the women who have been helped by Project RENEW, will be shown at the Pawtucket Film Festival on September 12th.
On June 30, 2009, there were 12 offenders (9 sentenced and 3 awaiting trial) incarcerated for one of the following charges: Loitering for Indecent Purposes, Loitering for Prostitution, Soliciting for Prostitution, or Soliciting from a Motor Vehicle for Indecent Purposes. In Fiscal Year 2009, there were 235 commitments (78 sentenced and 157 awaiting trial) to the RIDOC with one of the aforementioned charges. These are the number of commitment instances, not the number of individual people. If an inmate was committed more than once in the calendar year, each commitment event is counted and included in the aforementioned data.