Refurbished drop-in facility for sex workers opened in Norwich

A Norfolk charity's newly refurbished drop-in facility for sex workers was opened today by the Bishop of Norwich.

The Magdalene Group's new 'sitting room' at its headquarters in King Street, Norwich offers shelter and support to people caught up in prostitution in the city.

It will be open three afternoons a week and has been given a makeover with new computers for clients to use and a more modern feel, thanks to money awarded from The Big Lottery.

Suzi Heybourne, manager of the Magdalene Group, which was formed in 1992 in response to concerns about the number of people working in prostitution in Norwich, said the 'sitting room' offered a safe and supportive place for sex workers.

She said it was a meeting place where sex workers could get a hot nutritional meal, friendship, and build relationships with the group's staff and volunteers.

She added: 'The new 'sitting room' has been redesigned the way the clients wanted.

'It is in drop-in that we really have opportunities to engage with the women as we try to build trusting relationships and offer support to help them manage their difficult everyday lives.

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'It is also a resource from which we can offer the necessary advice and guidance to access a range of other agencies such as housing, debt management, and health and well-being services. It is also a facility where we arrange to meet with the women outside of drop-in, to meet for coffee or attend particular appointments.'

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, also unveiled a new plaque on the wall outside the new entrance.

He said: 'It's wonderful to see how the 'sitting room' has been improved. I have been in Norwich long enough to know how the Magdalene Group has developed over the years, and it's glorious to see how the 'sitting room' has been done up inside. It is more welcoming and more modern.'

The new 'sitting room' has also been welcomed by the clients.

One said: 'I love coming in here; it's really modern, it's a special place, and after lunch I am doing my level 2 word processing online. This place, the people, well, this is my family.'

The group also announced plans for the future with more intensive work to be carried out with care leaders, a telephone helpline for clients who work from home, and it will continue to offer its befriending service for women on release from prison.

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