Theresa Briscoe drives S Robinson Avenue, a street known for prostitutes, gangs and drugs.
She sees a woman walking along the street and pulls up to her, rolling down her window.
“Hi. We just want you to know that Jesus loves you,” Briscoe says.
It's a line she uses to start up a conversation.
She's trying to break the ice and perhaps get the woman thinking about leaving the streets.
Briscoe knows what she is talking about.
She was once a homeless prostitute.
Now she is street outreach coordinator for No Boundaries, a group dedicated to helping victims of human trafficking.
The group is partnering with the Salvation Army in a program to be launched next month to offer these women counseling, shelter, job training and even hot chocolate from a canteen truck.
Lori Basey, No Boundaries president, has worked on the problem of human trafficking in the Congo and now wants to focus on south Oklahoma City.
“The stories we're hearing locally are as bad as some of the stories globally,” Basey said.
Basey said Oklahoma City's location in the center of the United States at the intersection of Interstate 40 and Interstate 35 also puts the city at a crossroads for human
‘Stilettos to Sneakers'
Maj. Leisa Hall, Salvation Army divisional secretary for women's ministries, said there are women who do not know there are other ways to survive.
The Salvation Army's work to reach victims of human trafficking and children who are prostituted on the streets dates to the 1880s on the streets of London.
Hall is on an FBI committee that studies human trafficking.
At a meeting in November, she met No Boundaries justice coordinator Debi Mangrum, and plans to tackle the problem in Oklahoma City.
They hope to hit the streets with the Salvation Army in February with blankets, gloves, coats and words of love and a better way of life.
Plans are under way to develop a “Stilettos to Sneakers,” outreach program to provide counseling, guidance and job training.
About 70 people showed up at a recent volunteer meeting.
The next one is scheduled for Feb. 10 at the Salvation Army, 2808 SE 44.
The work could be dangerous, putting a volunteer or prostitute in an uncomfortable situation.
“Anyone who goes out on the streets should have some training. We know that we could do harm when we're trying to do good,” Hall said.
‘They are victims'
Hall said up to 85 percent of prostitutes started the work before age 18, sometimes as young as 12 when they were forced to work by someone else.
“They are victims, not criminals,” Hall said. “We have a plan in place to help someone get off the streets.”
At the No Boundaries training center in south Oklahoma City, Briscoe and Debi Mangrum are working on the next step, to offer living quarters, support and vocational training to those who agree to leave the streets.
On Christmas Eve, Mangrum gave backpacks filled with hair brushes, hand-warmers, skin lotion, lipstick and lip balm to working prostitutes on S Robinson Avenue.
One woman told her it was the only Christmas gift she received.
Briscoe plans to teach volunteers how to approach people on the streets and open a conversation that could lead to someone's transformation. She said she began working as a prostitute at age 12 and was homeless during her teenage years. She continued prostitution until age 29.
Now, 49, she wants to bring hope to the women.
“We let them know that we're here to share the love of Jesus with them,” Briscoe said.
How to help
People who want to volunteer or find out more about Project Hope for prostitutes can attend the next meeting of No Boundaries and the Salvation Army, 6:30 p.m. Feb. 10, at the Salvation Army, 2808 SE 44. Anyone who wants to make a donation to No Boundaries International based in Edmond can go online to nbint.org. Donations can be mailed to 49 E 15 St., Edmond, OK 73013.
‘Stilettos to Sneakers'
Anyone wanting to donate to the Salvation Army effort to help “Stilettos to Sneakers,” can send donations to Salvation Army Metropolitan Area Command, P.O. Box 2095, Oklahoma City, OK 73101. Checks can be made payable to the Salvation Army with a memo “sex trafficking outreach,” written on the check. For more information, go to salvationarmy