Program helps RI prostitutes get off the street

Darlene doesn't want you to know her last name, but she does want other women to hear her story and learn from her troubled past.

"I was a drug addict, prostitute, on the streets for about 18 years now," Darlene said.

The 51-year-old grandmother started selling herself for sex nearly two decades ago. The first time she did it because she got high and didn't have any money.

"There was another prostitute in the house and she said, 'Come take a walk with me.' She taught me what to do and what to say and I did it," Darlene said.

She says she thought it was a one-time thing until her addiction took over, then it became a quick way to make money in which no one else got hurt.

"It was easier to prostitute than to hurt somebody or rob somebody. I'd already done enough damage to my own family," Darlene said.

Darlene said she's 39 days sober and getting help from Project RENEW, a program that targets prostitutes with substance abuse treatment.

The program has helped nearly 300 women.

Colleen Daley Ndoye, who started the program in 2005 in Pawtucket, moved it the Amos House in Providence in the fall. She's hoping for similar success.

"The arrest rate has gone down by 90 percent in Pawtucket and Central Falls," Ndoye said.

In 2012, Providence police arrested 44 women for prostitution. This year, they've arrested 33. Ndoye hopes the program will help women rehabilitate and get them out of the revolving door of arrests.

"In the future I hope that women who are arrested can immediately choose to go into drug treatment or some form of services as opposed to going to jail," Ndoye said.

Darlene says this time she's taking getting clean seriously, but she knows only she can prove that to her three children and nine grandchildren.