Memphis, Tenn. — The sun was going down, but the folks at Lisieux Community were just gearing up.
They parked on Summer Avenue and prepared for company. It didn’t take long.
Women began showing up to get what the Lisieux crew brought.
“We just have a bunch of things for the girls on the street. It’s cold out here tonight,” said Trisha Henderson, a Lisieux Community helper.
They brought food. Nothing elaborate, just sandwiches and chips. But for these women, it’s like Thanksgiving.
“Yes, it helps me a lot. Look at me. But I just pray. I pray for God to send somebody,” said one of the women being helped.
“So what we have are backpacks for the ladies walking the street. Gift bags, car bags with bibles in them, scarfs and gloves – all kinds of toiletries,” said Trisha.
The women spend their days and nights on the streets, working.
Jessica, 41, has been living this life for 22 years. She broke down while telling us what she has to do just to get food.
“Prostitute,” she said in tears.
“Some of the girls are sleeping in abandoned cars, abandoned houses . It’s nowhere to go,” said Henderson.
They are trapped in the world of prostitution and sex trafficking. Often, because of drugs.
“I got on drugs,” Jessica told us. “Everything went down hill. I lost my car, my house, my job, my banking account, my kids. Everything. Me getting in the car with people I don’t know sometime . Never know who I am getting in the car with.”
These women are what Lisieux is all about. Supporting and educating those who have survived abuse, prostitution and sex trafficking.
“For the past week I have seen women getting beat up, hurt, assaulted and raped,” another woman told us.
Trisha is helping, because 22 years ago this was her.
“This is the community that I lived in, walked the streets in… struggled in,” said Henderson. “I am here to show them that here is hope and not to give up. If God can do it for me, he can do it for them too.”
Lisieux can now meet more women where they are.
For years, women had to come to the Lisieux House for a safe place to stay and get what they need.
But another victim’s organization, Thistle and Bee, will lease out and run the house starting February 1. This allows Lisieux to focus on outreach and creating a drop-in center.
“We will be able to build relationships on the streets . When they see they can trust us, hopefully more women will choose to get help,” said Sandra Ferrell, Lisieux Community Director.
Meanwhile, Thistle and Bee, which provides jobs for women victims, can now give them housing too.
Ramona has found life here after living in crisis for 10 years. She was in and out of jail.
“Prostitution and sex trafficking became a way of survival for me. I was battling a drug addiction. I had lost big time. I had lost big time,” said Ramona.
But at Thistle and Bee, she focuses on working in a business and gaining life skills while she also learns financial literacy and coping skills.
“It has helped me and shaped me and molded me into becoming the woman I had stopped becoming. It has maybe like so much like allowed me to breath again,” said Ramona. “Thistle and Bee has given me my life back. ”
Thistle and Bee’s Program Director, Bethany Hanczor, says changing lives is what their business is all about.
“It’s again a place for community, a place where sisterhood is going to begin to grow. It’s learning of responsibility,” said Hanczor.
Eyleen Farmer helped start Thistle and Bee in Memphis and says now they can focus on growing and serving more women.
“We don’t have the resources to serve more than 5 women. We want to be serving 35 women,” she said.
For those still on the street, it’s taking steps to get them off.
“They are doing what they gotta do to stay alive,” says Henderson.
Lisieux is also creating a drop in center for the women, a place where they can still get basic items they need when they don’t want to stay long term. Both Lisieux and Thistle and Bee operate on donations.
If you would like to help them, here are their websites and contact information: