WOMEN working as prostitutes in Ambleside Drive ‘are not there by choice’, a charity founder who works closely with them has said.

Marie Edmonds, founder of Aspirations Program, which operates in Southend, has lived experience of addiction and selling sex.

She slept rough and battled addiction for more than 15 years. Now, this inspirational woman has set up an outreach program to help others who have been dragged into a life of prostitution, to escape.

“The outreach started when the pandemic hit. I knew some of the women and early on they weren’t even aware about the virus,” Marie said.

Marie helped to organise, providing hand sanitiser, masks and educational programs for the women to inform them of the dangers of Covid-19 in a scheme known as Carrie’s Outreach.

Now the program offers advice and supplies to help keep the women safe and, if they want, help start a new life away from the sex trade.


“These women are very untrusting of people,” Marie explained. “They have suffered a lot of adverse childhood experiences, they have come from places of trauma. Most of the women are in a coercive and controlling relationship, many are controlled by men.

“They are not up there by choice, they are not up there having a good time. Many are fuelled by addiction. Again, they are not addicts by choice, they are mentally and physically dependent on drugs and have lost complete power over the choice.

“We have managed to get nine women who were hidden homeless into housing either with HARP or their own tenancies.”

The program has even helped some women turn their backs on prostitution.

“Some women are really putting in the action to make positive changes in their lives,” said Marie.

“I know residents say it is getting worse, and I can believe that, but there are a couple we have helped make some really positive changes and they don’t go down there anymore.”