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In the spotlight - MASH

Following the addition of four new organisations to the GMHF Pilot, we asked them to introduce themselves to discover more about them.

In this edition, the spotlight is on MASH

MASH (Manchester Action on Street Health) is a registered charity and the only organisation in Greater Manchester providing expert, non-judgemental trauma and gender-informed support to women who sex work or are at risk of sex working.

Through our holistic support we keep women safer and healthier, empowering them to make decisions which will have positive effects on their lives. We aim to reduce harm and build resilience.

The emphasis is on self-help. MASH offers the information, access to appropriate services, practical advice and one-to one holistic support to empower women to make changes themselves.

Our services include:

  • Outreach via our mobile van, five nights a week around the sex work ‘beat’ areas of Manchester.

  • A drop-in centre, running five days a week, where women can access food, condoms, needle exchange, creative and skills based activities, and one-to-one intensive case worker support.

  • Therapeutic support through complementary therapies and counselling.

  • A Sexual and Reproductive Health clinic delivered by a dedicated nurse

  • One-to-one case work delivered by experienced case workers who support women with everything from securing a tenancy, accessing drug and alcohol services, support with finance and benefits, reporting sexual violence and crime, or supporting through criminal justice proceedings.

Despite having the highest and most complex needs, sex workers often fall through the cracks of mainstream services and face huge barriers to support. Safe housing is an essential first step to addressing the social inequalities sex workers face, and is a crucial necessity for those wanting to make positive changes in their lives.

Our current caseworkers support with a range of issues, and housing is a key concern for the vast majority of women we support. Many are living with coercive or controlling influences, are sofa surfing or sleeping on the streets. If we don’t support and advocate for them, it is unlikely anyone else will.

MASH has nearly 30 years’ experience supporting women who sex work and pride ourselves on being flexible and adaptable to women’s changing needs and working patterns.

We are best placed to meet the needs of women who sex work due to our successful track record, our positive local reputation, and the trust we have built up with women and our partners. Many women we support tell us that they would not access mainstream services due to stigma and discrimination.

Access to support in a non-judgemental space from culturally sensitive workers who understand the complexity of their lives is vital to tackle issues holistically and equip women to take control of their lives and make more positive choices.

The majority of the women we support have multiple and complex needs relating to repeated trauma, violence, homelessness, poverty, addictions, and adverse childhood experiences.

Our experienced caseworkers support women experiencing a range of issues including homelessness, domestic violence, poverty, mental and physical ill-health and we pride ourselves on working with women where they are at, and taking our services out to them.

This is something women tell us they value extremely highly about MASH. We support women to identify their goals and work with them to achieve them: for some this might mean exiting sex work, and for others this might mean keeping them as safe as possible whilst they’re sex-working.

Through their engagement with MASH, women are taking fewer risks, are keeping themselves safer, are accessing expert support for their physical and emotional health, have roofs over their heads and have improved self-esteem and resilience. In 2018/19 MASH supported 583 women a majority of whom were street or sauna sex workers.

One woman recently told us: “I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for MASH.”

Annie Emery, MASH’s CEO says ‘We are absolutely delighted to be joining the Greater Manchester Housing First partnership.

"Having worked alongside the partnership for the last few years we recognise how successful the model is in creating lasting positive change for service users.

"MASH has first-hand experience of working with women experiencing multiple and complex needs and the opportunity to move into housing without conditions offers a safe and stable environment where women can then work with us and our partners to improve life outcomes.

"We very much look forward to bringing our gender and trauma informed expertise to the partnership to improve women’s lives in Manchester’ .


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