Maggie's Annual Report 1993/94

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Background information about Maggie's

Sometime in 1982, a Toronto street girl named Peggie Miller got busted for keeping a common bawdy house when she picked up a cop and took him back to her place. She pleaded "not guilty" but lost in court. Peg's lawyer told her there wasn't much point in appealing the case; the problem was the law. If she wanted justice, the law would have to change first. She told Peg how to get hold of people who were fighting the law.

Peggie hooked up with a few people, most of whom (Danny Cockerline, Chris Bearchell, and Gwendolyn) are part of Maggie's today; they helped her start the Canadian Organization for the Rights of Prostitutes (CORP).

CORP started out trying to organize pros to fight for law reform so that they could improve their working conditions. But Peggie also realized that things people go through in the business because the work is illegal and people are down on them for doing the job get in the way of sex workers getting organized. That's where the idea for Maggie's came from.

Peggie persuaded Chris to help her recruit the first board, which began meeting September 5, 1986. We thought that we could get the broader community — maybe even the government or people with money — to support a project that involved prostitutes joining the self-help movement. We imagined male and female pros providing access to information and services to other pros. Our first vision was something like a 24-hour laundromat, with attached daycare centre and space to run everything from self-defense classes to money-management seminars. We picked the name "Maggie's" for Margaret (Babba Yagga) who, along with women like Gwendolyn, organized Better End All Vicious Erotic Repression (BEAVER), the first prostitutes' rights group in Toronto (in the late 70s).

In 1986, Danny began to organize a (volunteer) response to the AIDS crisis. In May, 1988, Maggie's received our first AIDS-prevention funding for the Prostitutes' Safe Sex Project, which has been growing and thriving ever since. In August, 1991, we were finally incorporated under the name the "Toronto Prostitutes' Community Service Project." Our application for charitable status with Revenue Canada was approved in December, 1991.

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The Prostitutes' Safe Sex Project
(PSSP) in 1993

Old and new challenges

Demand on the street for our condom and information distribution services continued to grow. PSSP's number of outreach contacts in 1993 increased 27% over 1992 to 10,500 contacts. PSSP distributed 69,465 condoms (a 76% increase over 1992) and 7,645 pieces of AIDS prevention information.

The recession has continued to make itself felt. People who have lost jobs in other sectors of the economy and have been forced to depend upon (often inadequate) social assistance are turning to the sex trade. Such newcomers turn up on the streets, where the downturn in the economy also means that money is scarce — as it is for escorts and others who work indoors. This influx of newcomers has meant that the old "strolls" are growing while new strolls are developing all the time, wherever there are concentrations of poorer people — even in the suburbs.

In the greater Toronto area, an increasing number of ads are being placed in all publications that print escorts ads. Bars that are licensed to employ strippers are also feeling the economic crunch; many are no longer paying performers, expecting them to work for tips only. The increased competition is pushing strippers to engage in more explicit and sometimes riskier behaviour.

Poor economic conditions also encourage the spread of illegal drug-use, especially the use of "crack," which is notoriously cheap and addictive. Many new people are turning to the sex trade to support a drug habit. This is another factor that is driving prices down throughout the sex industry. As well as increasing a person's risk of HIV infection through unprotected oral sex (smoking crack can cause sores in the mouth), crack, like any intoxicant, can impair judgement and aggravate a new or addicted prostitute's risk behaviour vis-à-vis commercial sex.

Newcomers to the sex industry don't just need information about AIDS, they also need to know about all of the sexually transmitted diseases and a variety of other risks. We continue to experience a demand for services that go beyond AIDS and STD prevention. Common issues include discrimination, parenting, support for coping with addiction, police violence and violence on the street and at home, and legal charges.

The continued criminalization of sex work, and in particular the over-zealousness of police in enforcing the law, puts an enormous amount of pressure on sex workers, pressure that can lead to unsafe sex. In strip clubs and escort agencies, for example, the illegality of sex for money leads to a denial it is taking place. This makes promotion of safer sex practices extremely difficult. On the street where prostitution takes place more openly, safe sex is the norm. But constant arrests and harassment by police, residents and abusive clients (abuse that is encouraged by criminalization), as well as incarceration, all take their toll on street workers.

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Meeting the challenge

The year of the van

In 1993, we acquired a van courtesy of the Trillium Foundation. It has allowed us to reach out to more of those street prostitutes who can't or won't come to Maggie's resource centre, especially for those sex workers who have been alienated by traditional service agencies. The van has provided a place for street prostitutes to get warm and to talk; allowed us to carry our street outreach services to a larger number of more distant (suburban) strolls; and aided networking with other agencies and service providers, not just in Toronto but throughout the province. The van has also facilitated group meetings by bussing sex workers to events they would not ordinarily be able to attend. Provincial outreach

At the initiation of the AIDS Bureau of the Ontario Ministry of Health, we began a one-year community development project in June, 1993 that is almost complete. The purpose of the project is to sensitize service organizations to the needs of sex workers, to share Maggie's expertise on working with sex workers, and to connect to sex workers with these services. We had hoped to establish a provincial network of sex workers. Our trips to other communities in Ontario and our contact by phone with agencies in other cities has convinced us of the need for peer education for sex workers outside of Toronto.

We have made some valuable contacts despite the difficulty of connecting with sex workers in places we're not familiar with. We are less optimistic, however, that other AIDS organizations will be able to provide effective services to prostitutes. It is unlikely that many sex workers would feel comfortable in non-sex worker run agencies, no matter how sensitized they may be.

We are considering the idea of seeking funds from different municipalities to hire sex workers to do AIDS outreach in their communities. These people would be hired and trained by Maggie's and would use Maggie's resources. This would require additional staff to coordinate.

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Reducing drug-related harm

We applied and were awarded a six-month grant from Health Canada's Health Promotion and Community Development Division to conduct a needs assessment of prostitutes who use drugs. The study turned out a great success, providing us with a tool to involve volunteers and to bring many sex workers into contact with Maggie's for the first time. We gathered a wealth of information from 164 people, that is being analyzed for a report. We hope to use the results to persuade potential funders of the need to provide services to those in our community with drug addictions. These results will be published as a report within the next couple of months.

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Legal working group

We have always wanted PSSP's outreach to include introducing ourselves to people who are going through the legal system facing prostitution-related charges. We want them to know that Maggie's is available and can provide safe-sex resources and moral and practical support. Our new legal working group has begun the initial steps to put a CourtWatch program in place. We are confident that the program will be up and running this year. The Legal Primer for pros, funded by the Ontario Women's Directorate, is nearing completion. The "primer" will be produced as a series booklets focusing on different areas of the sex trade. Who's Jailbait?, a booklet on the laws about age of consent has already been produced. Drafting of Holding Court: A Guide Through the sSystem, is complete and ready to put into the established format. Others in the series currently in progress are My Bawdy's My Business, for people who work indoors, Communicating for the Purpose for the street and Legal Tips for Working Strips for people who work in strip clubs. All the booklets in this series will eventually be available as a handbook.

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The resource centre

The PSSP Resource Centre, funded by Health Canada continues to grow as a repository of a variety of materials which we've either produced or obtained elsewhere. Work on sorting the archives and resource files is almost complete. We have attempted to simplify our filing system to make them more accessible to more people. Being better organized will allow us to keep the material more secure. (Some books have disappeared from the library.) We are proud of what is possibly the largest prostitute archives in the world.

We have completed a new order form to allow us to distribute our materials more widely. The form includes the info-kits we produce as well as our buttons, pamphlets, t-shirts, etc. We expect orders for materials to increase when we mail out the order form with the next newsletter.

In addition to being a repository of material, the resource centre provides a space for meetings, working, drop-ins, condom pick-ups, volunteer training and involvement and a variety of other uses. Because of the demand for space we took over additional space across the hall (donated by the landlord) to convert into a meeting and drop-in space. Work is now underway to rearrange the centre.

The additional space was much needed to accommodate our staff which has grown from the original three to eleven (including positions which are funded through such skills development agencies as Futures and Vocational Rehab Services).

We have also expanded our computer system courtesy of the Trillium Foundation ($12,000). Maggie's now has a Macintosh production centre which is now being used to train staff and volunteers and produce new materials. Our new/used computer centre includes a Laser Writer II, two Mac IIci's, a scanner (for digitizing images), a cartridge drive for back-up, and a fax modem! We have also purchased software packages for word processing, data-basing, spreadsheets, desktop layout, and photo manipulation.

The new computer centre has been used to convert the Bad Trick Sheet to a user-friendly process and to train new staff to maintain it. We have created new data-bases including one for the mailing list with over 200 entries and for the study to reduce drug-related harm, a data-base with 78 question fields and 164 respondents.

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Health promotion materials

We continued to produced a wide variety of our own material this year. The Bad Trick Sheet (a list of descriptions of violent tricks for pros working the streets) continues to be one of the most effective outreach tools that Maggie's has developed. The Bad Trick Sheet has collected 150 bad date reports since September, 1990. Periodically, Maggie's has also published a Bad Trick Sheet for the boys town stroll. On December 6, 1993, we launched our new Bad Calls List, modeled on the Bad Trick Sheet, for pros who work indoors. The Bad Calls List is dedicated to Grayce Elizabeth Baxter, an escort prostitute who was murdered by a client. As of March 16, 1994, we had collected 21 entries. It has been received with great interest and has already recruited new volunteers. we received a small grant ($1,500) from the Breaking the Cycle of Violence Committee of the City of Toronto for software and technical support.

1993 was a bad year for the Maggie's newsletter, mainly due to commitments to so many other projects. Maggie's 'Zine the newsletter's new face lift, is now complete and planning to publish quarterly as it has always been a great way to get people involved in Maggie's.

Maggie's continues to turn out a steady stream of AIDS prevention promotional materials including the ever-popular "How to have Safer Sex" pamphlet, t-shirts, Safe Sex Pro cards (explaining to tricks why they have to wear condoms), posters, buttons, and matches. Initiated by the need for quick and easy info on the increased risk of oral sex for crack users, the "crack card" has become a model for a complete new set of cards. They include cards on TB, hepatitis, nonoxynol-9, lube, HIV reinfection, and "If cops want to talk to you," as well as cards targeted at strippers and male pros.

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Media and community relations

Since the centre opened, we've become more entrenched in our community and have begun to develop a bit of a profile in the media. The response of Maggie's members to broader issues (the law, neighbourhood issues, police perpetrating or refusing to investigate violence against pros) in public forums has sometimes been covered in the press. And members of Maggie's have spoken as individuals to reporters and on radio and television shows about prostitution generally and about particular issues. Favourable stories about Maggie's have appeared in some of the alternative press. Coverage of our highly successful fund-raiser WhoreCulture was very supportive including a rave review in Adam magazine by Veronica Vera.

Less positive coverage for Maggie's has been press around Matthew McGowan. Matthew, 22, a hard working volunteer and contracted worker, and voting member of Maggie's was charged for being in a video tape he made with his 14-year-old lover and another boy (14) from the stroll. The video was later purchased in an undercover investigation from a video collector who was charged with possession and distribution under the new "youth porn law," section 163.1 of the Criminal Code. (The law makes it illegal to possess, produce or distribute the visual or written depiction of someone under 18 years, or who appears to be under 18 years, in a sexual manner even though 14 is the age of consent for most sexual acts) The press and police suggested Matthew's participation in a "kiddie porn" ring and implied Maggie's involvement in such a ring by association. The staff and the board of Maggie's have been unanimous in their public support of Matthew, and of the many other boys who have been harassed and charged in this attack on young gay men, most of whom are prostitutes. Members of Maggie's introduced a motion at the Ontario AIDS Network opposing the "youth porn" law on the grounds that it makes it a crime to make or own sexually explicit safe sex materials for teenagers. Opposition to the law is widespread and Maggie's has garnered a lot of support.

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The community

Maggie's continued as an active member of the Canadian AIDS Society in 1993, and is also an active member of the Ontario AIDS Network, the International Committee for Prostitutes' Rights (ICPR) and the Network of Sex Work Related HIV Projects. We also helped found the Coalition Advocating Safer Hustling (CASH), an organization which we contributed the name and constitution for. Members of CASH, most of whom were from HIV prevention projects which provide services for male prostitutes, were astounded at how advanced our peer education project was after meeting three members of Maggie's at its inaugural conference in San Francisco. Danny Cockerline, Andrew Sorfleet, and Brian Wiles, linked with other sex workers to refuse participation unless voting control and direction of the network was in the hands of sex workers. CASH is a project funded by American Foundation for AIDS Research (AMFAR), and administered by the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) in New York.

This June, Danny received funding to attend and speak at the IX International AIDS Conference in Berlin at a panel of mostly sex workers. The topic was barriers to AIDS prevention among sex workers. Having an official prostitute event at the International was a first and we were proud to be asked to be part of it. In addition to the panel there was another ICPR meeting with sex workers from around the world.

Closer to home, Maggie's continues its close relationship with the Sex Workers' Alliance of Toronto. Together we held an open house for escorts after the police busts of escorts early in the year. Over 30 people showed up to ask questions of lawyer Peter Maloney who kindly volunteered his time. Together we also hosted meetings on the themes of "Beat the Sweeps" and "Stop Bad Calls".

The busts of indoor workers resulted in a delegation from Maggie's and SWAT meeting with the Police Services Board to discuss policies around policing prostitution. The Police Services Board has yet to effect any changes as a result of that meeting and we continue to keep the pressure on.

Most recently, on behalf of SWAT and Maggie's, Gwendolyn and Codie have played host to two meetings of over 70 strippers who met to discuss recent court decisions that appear to ease some restrictions in strip clubs. These meetings have drawn many potential volunteers and members into Maggie's.

Maggie's and SWAT have also worked closely to organize opposition to the "youth porn" law and support for the young male prostitutes who have been hurt by it. SWAT has been playing a key role in organizing a broad-based campaign that has been endorsed by over 36 organizations including arts groups, students, feminists, socialists, AIDS groups, and lesbian and gay groups.

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Volunteers and membership

Our sense of being connected to communities of sex workers comes not just from our staff and board (the majority of whom must always be sex workers), but from the numbers of individuals from all branches of the sex industry who have undertaken volunteer outreach for us. Our volunteer involvement has jumped dramatically over the last couple of years.

In 1990/91 there were 96 occasions when volunteers participated in street outreach for approximately 260 hours. In 1991/92 there were 185 occasions during which volunteers contributed approximately 830 hours of outreach time. In 1992/93, volunteers worked with the project at total number of 1,211 occasions for a total of approximately 3,515 hours. And for the first three quarters of 1993/94, volunteers participated extensively in outreach and fund raising: 1,456 occasions for a total of approximately 4,583 hours.

Maggie's has a commitment to volunteer participation for the same reason we believe in peer education and user-controlled programs. It encourages the development of a sense of community and a commitment to mutual aid as well as the sharing of skills and information and the development of self esteem.

Volunteers participate on our board and committees, organize events and engage in fund raising, conduct phone and street outreach, contribute to the newsletter and help staff the resource centre.

The most successful event in our history took place this year. WhoreCulture: a festival of sex work, organized by Gwendolyn, involved countless hours from over 60 volunteers to pull off. The event consisted of three evenings, the first an evening of live performance, the second a whore film night, and the third a round table followed by a party. All were a smashing success. And we raised the money we needed to meet our commitment to Trillium Foundation. We held a number of other successful events throughout the year most notably our seasonal barbecue and X-mas parties.

Our membership continues to grow as well. Last year, as of February 8, Maggie's had 36 members, 29 of whom could vote. As of March 4, 1994, Maggie's has 44 members, 36 of whom can vote. Only current or former sex workers can be voting members. Board members who are not sex workers can also vote while they are serving their term on the board.

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rent and utilities . . . . . . 20,400          (including $6,000. donation)
expenses and supplies . . . . .30,000.                       (bare minimum)
SUB TOTAL. . . . . . . . . .50,400.

salaries and benefits . . . . .70,600.      (first quarter - 7.25 positions)
 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .181,500.    (last 3 quarters - 6.25 positions)
sub total . . . . . . . . . . 252,100.
GRAND TOTAL. . . . . . . . 302,500.


salaries and benefits . . . . .70,600.       (first quarter - 7.25 positions)
 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .201,750.        (last 3 quarters - 7 positions)
sub total . . . . . . . . . . 272,350.
GRAND TOTAL. . . . . . . . 322,750.

confirmed grants. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .178,719.
with additional likely income. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 262,394.
with additional possible income . . . . . . . . . . . . .357,394.
If we get all grants applied for . . . . . . . . . . . . 483,244.

Maggie's/Toronto Prostitutes' Community Service Project
     Budget for April 1, 1994 - March 31, 1995

   Operating costs
      rent and utilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20,400.
      expenses and supplies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30,000.

   Salaries and benefits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 278,628.
   (7 positions for first 1/4,
   8 positions for last 3/4)

TOTAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .329,028.
   Grants - confirmed
      City of Toronto, Department of 
         Public Health, AIDS-prevention
            final 1/4 of previous grant. . . . . . . . . .13,500.
            first 3/4 of 1994-95 grant. . . . . . . . . . 42,321.
         Drug Abuse Prevention
             final 1/4 of previous grant. . . . . . . . . .4,700.

      Health Canada, Health Promotion and 
      Social Development, AIDS Community 
      Action Plan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60,000.

      Ontario Ministry of Health, 
      AIDS Bureau, core funding . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83,918.

Ontario Ministry of Health, AIDS Bureau
balance, Accessibility Project . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10,319.

TOTAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .248,696.25

   Grants - very likely
      Ontario Ministry of Health, AIDS Bureau
      on-going Accessibility Project. . . . . . . . . . . 53,101.

      Trillium Foundation, last 1/4 of 93/94 . . . . . . .29,075.

TOTAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .330,872.25

Grants - possible
Trillium Foundation, first 3/4 of 94/95 . . . . . . . . . 86,250.

TOTAL. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 417,122.25

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[Rights Groups]

Created: March 19, 1997
Last modified: April 11, 1998

Maggie's Maggie's
Box 82527, 422 Parliament St.
Toronto, ON M5A 4N8
Tel: +1 (416) 964-0150