More Odessa Moms Turning to Prostitution, Housing Crisis Partially to Blame

Staff Report
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - When the West Texas sun yields to a pale moon, more and more women are taking to the streets of Odessa. Many of them are mothers.

"They're young. Very young. Some of them are 18 and 19 years old," Mariah Stittsworth, Founding Director of the Wake Up and Dream Program at the Faith Temple Fellowship, said.

Over the past few months, the Fellowship has seen a growing number of these women turning to them for help. They say they're forced to sell sex in order to survive.

Few housing options and high rent fees means several of these mothers work multiple jobs. In some cases, that is still not enough to get by.

"They are, what I call, at the gate of homelessness," Stittsworth said.

Co-Director, Lynn Overton, said. "You've got to weigh the options. If I do this to feed my baby today, tomorrow my baby is going to have to talk to somebody who says, 'Did you know your mother does this to feed you?' How do you balance that? You can't."

The solicitation is happening all around us.

"Right under our very noses," Stittsworth said.

One of the most common locations, she says, is within a three block radius of the Fellowship, in the area of 6th Street and Dixie Boulevard.

Although the cash may be coming in, the pay-off is often not as good these women might think.
"You're not out there on the corner doing this for yourself. Somebody owns you and they get a cut of whatever you make," Overton said.

Church leaders know that prostitution won't ever go away for good but they believe they can slow it down by giving these women a way out. The Fellowship is trying to turn the empty dirt lot across the street from its facility into a two story shelter for women and children.

Stittsworth says, "It would help those who do not have a safe place to lay their heads tonight and for the children that are living in cars and literally eating out of dumpsters. Yes, right here in Odessa. We have that problem."

Thus far, they've raised $75,000. However, they need to reach a goal of $250,000 to ever break ground. They are asking for the community's help to make this shelter become a reality.

For assistance or to donate, you can visit Faith Temple Fellowship at 1335 E. 6th Street in Odessa from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Monday through Thursday. Or, call (432) 202-6371. No calls after 5 p.m.