From salon to help for sex-trafficking victims

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Christine Barber, director of Street Safe stands inside a building she hopes to turn into a salon / service center for homeless women, sex workers and sex tracfficking victims can visit to seek support. The location will be near Vermont and Central in the International District. Roberto E. Rosales/ABQ Journal

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Behind a nondescript tan stucco storefront – sandwiched between a car lot and a Mexican food restaurant – a homey beauty salon in the heart of the International District is planning to re-open its doors.

But this time around, the 1950s-era building on Central and Vermont will house a nonprofit organization that caters to sex-trafficking victims, homeless women and others who need help.

Christine Barber, the executive director of Street Safe New Mexico, said they have christened it “The Salon” and are raising money in the hopes of opening in September. She says it will be a place where women who live on the street can use the bathroom, get out of the heat (or cold) and access medical or legal services.

For the past eight years, Barber says Street Safe has gathered once a week in a parking lot in Southeast Albuquerque to offer toiletries and other assistance to women who live on the street. She said, right now, they reach about 250 women every month and she anticipates that will grow once they have a physical location.

“The girls requested computers to look for jobs, internet for the same thing and Facebook because that’s one of the biggest ways they contact their family,” Barber said. “It’ll be just a place where they can sit … just a place where they can sit down and call their own for a second.”

Street Safe began renting the building last January and is now raising money to fix it up while keeping some of the original fixtures, such as an adobe fireplace, stained glass windows and tiled countertops, intact.

However, Barber said, the roof is in desperate need of repairs and black mold has cropped up in dark corners. She hopes to raise $20,000 through a GoFundMe campaign and other donations.

She said the plan is to partner with others who work with sex-trafficking victims, including Life Link behavioral health center, First Nations Community HealthSource and the University of New Mexico Hospital, to offer a variety of resources. Volunteers from the UNM law school plan to come by and help the women look up their legal cases, warrants and divorce and custody battles.

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