The Independent London Newspaper

Gong for prostitutes’ ‘super nun’

Sister Lynda Dearlove

MBE for charity’s founder Sister Lynda Dearlove.

IT has yet to fully shake off its reputation as a hangout for pushers and prostitutes, but the streets of King’s Cross are a safer place for all thanks to “super nun” Sister Lynda Dearlove.
The 51-year-old, who was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours List, has been on a mission to help prostitutes get their lives back on track since setting up the Women@thewell drop-in centre in Birkenhead Street in 2007.
She has witnessed first-hand the problems the women face during regular night patrols around the area.
“We work in the Roman Catholic tradition,” said Sister Lynda. “There is no religious judgment. We just aim to improve the quality of people’s lives and to break down the barriers for these women.
“Their problems are wide-ranging but most of the time it is simply the chaotic nature of their lives.
“We offer training but also help to empower women by raising their personal confidence.
“A lot of time they just need someone to treat them with respect – many of them have been looked down on by everyone they have met.”
Born in Middlesbrough, Sister Lynda worked in the East End of for 13 years before founding the charity.
The drop-in centre provides a range of support and employment advice services for more than 150 prostitutes each year. A dinner event held at the centre over the Christmas period attracted 70, all from King’s Cross.
Sister Lynda said crack cocaine is a “massive problem” for prostitutes in King’s Cross and backed proposals from NHS Camden and Camden Council to open a centralised drug clinic in the south of the borough.
She said: “Of most of the women we meet on the street, very few are working with pimps. It is not organised at all and there are huge levels drugs.
“The issue is crack cocaine, not heroin as you may think. Many of these women are self-medicating with crack, which is a psychological addiction – it means their mental health becomes an issue.
“I am absolutely for decriminalisation of prostitution. One of the main problems for prostitutes is that they become locked in a cycle and much of that has to do with these women going in and out of prison. Asbos, which are used to police prostitution, are a big issue.
“We have a positive relationship with the police, but Asbos are easily breached and often women find themselves in custody for geographical reasons.
“Then there are CRB [Criminal Record Bureau] checks.
“If a prostitute comes to us and she applies for a job, for example as a cleaner in a hospital, she will be CRB checked and not even given an interview.
“For many it feels like there is no escape, but there are ways out and we can show them that.
“I have accepted the MBE in the name of a lot of people.”
TOM FOOT

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