Straight Street Revolution Ministries
Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon Friday
Address: 2145 Centennial Drive, Gainesville
Phone number: 678-989-0255
Out of Darkness 24-hour rescue hotline: 404-941-6024
A woman from a good home with a supportive family had one bad relationship with a man and found herself working in the sex trade. Another moved to America alone to find a better life. After working a strip club to make ends meet, the woman earned a job at McDonald’s to help her quit stripping.
These are the stories of wrong turns and redemption that inspired Jennifer Robson to get involved with the Beautiful Feet Ministry at Straight Street Revolutions, a program that works to support and rescue women in the sex industry.
It was the story of the woman from a loving family that opened her eyes to the struggles of sex workers. She saw this situation was not limited to women from broken families or abusive backgrounds.
“It was right then when she was telling her story that God revealed to me (that) it could have been me,” Jennifer said. “It could be any female, really. I knew then why God put that burden on my heart and why I’m doing this right now.”
Through her work at Straight Street, Robson and her husband Beau are providing assistance to more than 200 women involved in the sex trade in the Hall County area. Beautiful Feet, a name referencing a Bible verse, began in 2012 as the third ministry program at Straight Street Revolutions.
Robson’s father-in-law, Todd Robson, founded Straight Street in 2010 as a way to connect his love of Christ with his desire to help others in his community. Therefore, he developed the agency to benefit school, church and community outreach programs, including Backpack Love and SS Impact. They are funded through grants and donations.
Jennifer oversees administration for Straight Street and works closely with Beautiful Feet. A licensed professional counselor with a newly completed master’s degree in clinical mental health, Jennifer said she has always felt compelled to help women in the sex trade but never knew how to help until she began working with rescued women.
Both Gainesville natives, Jennifer and Beau initially got involved in helping sex industry workers as rescuers for the Atlanta-based anti-trafficking ministry Out of Darkness. They received faith-based and government anti-trafficking training and quickly realized the problem was not confined to the urban areas of downtown Atlanta.
“This isn’t just an Atlanta problem. It’s happening here in Gainesville,” Jennifer said. “Atlanta is a hub for sex trafficking, but the highest demand is actually north of the (Atlanta) perimeter.”
Jennifer said a majority of women who work in the sex trade have experienced sexual, physical or emotional abuse at a young age.
“I know these ladies didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘I want to be a prostitute when I grow up,’” she said. “There was a situation in their life that led them to end up where they are at.”
After his work put him in contact with sex workers, Beau began working with Straight Street in Gainesville in 2012. Jennifer joined in 2014.
Beautiful Feet was established with the goal of connecting with women in the industry and providing them resources and information on how to get free. They do outreach at area strip clubs and online via sex trafficking websites to provide women with the Out of Darkness rescue hotline number.
Jeff Shaw, director of Out of Darkness, said sometimes the women who call the hotline are seeking immediate help. Other calls come from women looking for more information, concerned family members or law enforcement. So far this year, Shaw said Out of Darkness has received approximately 54,000 calls to the hotline.
When Out of Darkness rescues a worker, Shaw said the woman is taken to one of its two safe homes, which serve as short-term, temporary housing. Often this process involves detoxing from drug or alcohol addictions and case management.
“We really focus on trauma-informed care, which is understanding and caring for people based on the reality they have suffered,” Shaw said. “Oftentimes this involves complex trauma where events have happened over and over again. For example, being raped over and over again over the course of 10 years.”
The women spend an average of two to three weeks in the Out of Darkness safe homes, Shaw said. Then they are often transferred to long-term residences, known as second-phase housing, through one of Out of Darkness’ partners, such as Beautiful Feet Ministry.
Beautiful Feet has proposed building a second-phase residential campus for some of its rescued women, which would be the only home of its kind in Northeast Georgia. The mission has secured 50 acres in south Hall County to build a home, which Jennifer said would initially house four rescued women along with a full staff of trained counselors and caretakers.
The second-phase housing would provide the women with trauma counseling, life skills training, education and employment training. Jennifer said many rescued women need training in tasks such as cleaning and personal finance, because they have never lived independently. Others want to learn job skills or earn their GED.
Opposition from community members who are concerned about safety and the effect on property values has thwarted the construction project. Jennifer and Beau will appear before the Hall County Board of Commissioners in January to try to get approval. Previously, the Hall County Planning Board rejected the proposal last month, but commissioners will make the final decision.
In response to fears from neighbors about pimps or sex traffickers looking for women at the housing complex, Jennifer said the chances of that occurring are unlikely.
“I hate that everyone is taking this personally and that there is so much anger,” Jennifer said. “We’re not against the community, and we would never put anyone’s life in danger or hurt anyone.
Between now and the January meeting, Jennifer and Beau hope to talk to as many individuals as possible and educate the community about their work and gain support for their proposal.
“Our mission is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, especially with those who are marginalized by society, the ones that a lot of people don’t want to mess with because it is so messy,” she said. “I just want our community, Gainesville, to be the light for people living in darkness.”