Pastor vs Prostitutes

Published: May. 14, 2018 at 11:10 PM EDT
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It's been more than two years since we first talked with a pastor on Huntington's west end who made it her mission to tackle the issue of prostitution that was rampant literally right outside her church doors.

We wanted to find out what's changed since our original story aired.

"This used to be a jungle," Pastor Helen Wolfe said. "You didn't know what you were going to see."

Two years ago Wolfe decided she'd had enough of prostitutes working the street right in front of her church on West 10th Street.

"If I can help one girl, it's like leave the 99 and go after the 1," she said.

The pastor herself was mistaken once for one of the ladies in question.

In the two years since our first interview, Pastor Helen has increased her efforts to help the ladies get out of the cycle of drugs and prostitution.

Every Wednesday night her church, New Day Ministry, opens its cafeteria doors and provides a meal.

"That would help us build a relationship," she said. "I would talk to the girls, and I would tell them if you ever get sick and tired of being sick and tired, I'm here. I will help you."

Several of the women have sat in on Sunday worship service.

"They're getting the worship in their ears, which will get in their spirit," she said.

After earning their trust, Helen's also helped some of the ladies enlist in rehab.

"A lot of the ladies on the street have shifted in another direction," she said.

She says several community members, like Todd Sweeney, have reached out wanting to help.

"I got to know her and became close friends," Sweeney said.

They say the difference between two years ago and today is phenomenal.

"You used to drive from Madison Avenue to Go Mart and see 25 to 30 prostitutes," Sweeney said. "You can see today there are not any."

"It's just been so quiet," Wolfe said. "If you come out here in the evening you'll see people sitting outside in lawn chairs. You'll see children outside playing once again. You have a couple girls that hit the corner, but they don't come in front of the church. Johns don't pull in front of the church anymore. It's like there's a respect level now."

She says it's been a blessing witnessing the change in her community she prayed for.

"We all came together, and it worked," she said.

Pastor Helen says the police department deserves a huge amount of credit.

Prostitutes who've been arrested in Huntington have been offered the opportunity to participate in the LEAD program, which includes rehab services and health screening.

Chief Hank Dial says that and the drug court are a couple of the reasons they are having more success with this issue.