The people and the places Crawling the kerb Outreach workers in Middlesbrough drive around town checking on the well-being of Teesside's young sex street workers. We went with one of them. An outreach worker with a sex worker.
There are currently about young women working the streets of Middlesbrough as prostitutes. A large majority are under 18, and addicted to a combination of crack cocaine and heroin.
Many of them are drawn into prostitution in their mid-teens, by the lure of easy money, but are soon horrified by the situation they find themselves in, and the kerb-crawlers who pick them up. Among the "punters" crawling the streets "over the border" in Middlesbrough's red light district, there are some friendly faces. Secos Sexual Exploitation of Children On the Streets is an organisation set up by Barnado's to address the problem of under-age girls selling sex in Middlesbrough.
Outreach workers like Mary Crawley drive around town offering women and occasionally men the chance to pick up contraceptives, have a cup of tea, and get out of the rain for a few minutes. Whoever abused them, bought them "Young people come into this from all areas of society," says Wendy Shepherd of Secos. They sell sex because that's what happened when they were six years old and were given a bag of sweets Wendy Shepherd "We see drug pushers who will use drugs as a way of getting young people into prostitution and maintaining them in prostitution, because once they're hooked, they have to find the money.
Within an hour, four women get into the car - they are all but one addicted to crack cocaine. Mary Crawley gives one young woman a cup of tea.
The one who is no longer on drugs was ly using crack, and fears she may relapse if she can't change her environment. The women all have an air of bravado, as if what they are doing is no big deal - Mary explains that aareas drug habits numb their emotions, making their jobs easier - but underneath this they are all grimly realistic about their lives.