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Joe Kenny is a reporter for the St. Louis Review and Catholic St. Beats: Sports; Catholic social teaching: Crime and justice, immigration, missions, multicultural traditions; Catholic Charities federated agencies; Senior citizens and aging.
The women walk along several thoroughfares of south St. Louis, often identified with a Polar Pop Styrofoam cup in hand. Men pull up in their cars, the financial terms are agreed upon and the women hop in the vehicle. Earlier this summer, neighbors had enough, and enlisted their alderwoman and the police in helping to crack down on the prostitution.
Several times the police went undercover and made multiple arrests of the women and their customers. Media reports noted that many of the women are homeless or addicted to drugs. Louis Police Captain Steven Mueller said police officers arrest the same women "over and over again. We see them day after day, in and out of the justice system.
In the past, St. Alban Roe Parish in Wildwood have met the women — some of whom have children — as they seek help with material needs, but they haven't had a comprehensive approach to helping them. Louis City Human Services Department and the Missouri Probation and Parole office, Mercy Health System, the city municipal court, police officers, firefighters and businesses to help the women get out of prostitution.
Walter Roddy of In God's Hands, which has helped the poor for more than 12 years, said he found the recent news reports of the situation in south St. Louis disturbing. That's when his program helped put together a team to direct intensive social services to help women who want to change their situation.