As someone who has volunteered for agencies that work with sex workers and prostitutes for over 10 years, I agree with the Mayor?s decision to not reinstate the Prostitution Free Zones. The PFZ?s were ineffective and created more harm to an already marginalized population. Much needed social services are often located within the zones. The displacement of individuals creates another barrier for those in need to obtain services. The PFZ?s did not prevent or deter prostitution, but only succeeded in pushing the population into more isolated, fringe areas that made them more vulnerable to assault and harder for outreach workers to find and provide services to them. PFZs displace sex workers and push them in the shadows, potentially increasing the likelihood that they will be targets of violence. These types of strategies place people who are trafficked into such situations at a greater risk.
This is not a law enforcement issue, but an issue of economic justice. Poverty and lack of options is the problem; the situation on 82nd is the symptom. Law enforcement merely creates a revolving door that is expensive and ineffective. It hinders any effort to get out of prostitution, because having a police record creates a significant barrier to conventional employment and decent housing. If the goal is to reduce the level of prostitution, leaving it solely as a law enforcement issue is counter productive.
This is an issue of social & economic justice. Lack of affordable housing and low wage jobs have created a rise in homelessness. Homelessness creates the need for survival sex, a huge faction of the visible prostitution residents are complaining about on 82nd avenue. Making affordable housing and emergency shelter more available is a more effective, humane response to the problem.
Although addiction is not always involved in prostitution, the extreme lack of mental health services and drug and alcohol treatment in Portland contribute to the conflict on 82nd . People struggling with these issues have little or no resources with which to improve their situation and limits their options. If the goal is to reduce the amount of prostitution, appropriating a sufficient amount of resources to these programs is more conducive than merely warehousing people in jail.
Punishing individuals based on their appearance and their assumed action contributes to racism, sexism, classism, and homo/transphobia, all of which contribute to the stigma and marginalization of individuals. This marginalization contributes to the existence of a street economy and exacerbates the conflict we see on 82nd avenue.
posted 4 years, 9 months ago
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