Toledo, Ohio exit program Wake Up Youth

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Toledo, Ohio exit program Wake Up Youth

Postby sam » Fri Apr 20, 2007 10:06 am

Wake Up Youth's drop-in center is at 123 10th St. in Toledo. Crisis line is (419) 870-4402. To make a donation call (419) 244-8911.

Group assists women exploited by prostitution
By Jacob Ruhe
Toledo Free Press Staff Writer

A Toledo nonprofit organization called Wake Up Youth, Inc. is taking a unique approach to assisting teen and adult women in the area exploited by prostitution. It tries to offer its mentoring and crisis services whenever its clients need them and, doing so demands some long and unusual hours.

Wake Up Youth provides a 24-hour crisis line that can be called any day at any time and a drop-in center open from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. seven days a week. EleSondra DeRomano, executive director and founder of the year-old organization, said its offices are usually staffed 18 hours a day, with breaks only between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., and 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

DeRomano said she hopes to keep the drop-in center open 24 hours a day in the near future, if Wake Up Youth receives grants it has applied for. She said no other nonprofit in the United States has a 24 hour drop-in center.

“These women don't work nine to five, so we have to work outside the box,” DeRomano said.

Wake Up Youth helps its clients escape from prostitution and gives them hope for the future. Toledo is among the top recruiting spots in the country for teen prostitution. In the course of its work, Wake Up Youth works with Toledo law enforcement and social workers.

The organization offers GED classes and survivors' meetings to the women and girls it serves, as well as safety kits, food, clothing and temporary shelter. DeRomano said Wake Up Youth also has the first group counseling program in the United States for parents of those exploited by prostitution.

She spends several hours each week driving around the area, responding to crisis calls, seeking out women in need of help and driving them back to Wake Up Youth's office.

Wake Up Youth's program that deals with prostitution currently works with 204 women and 28 under-aged girls.

It relies on donations for funding. DeRomano said she's unpaid and gets by on welfare so she can continue doing her work. The program has several volunteers but only one paid employee.

Recently, DeRomano spoke briefly at a meeting of the United Auto Workers of Ohio. She said the union was so moved by her comments about the plight of local women and girls working as prostitutes that they donated $62,000 to Wake Up Youth.

DeRomano said her organization has used some of the union's donation to purchase a van for picking up women and girls and bringing them back to the drop-in center. Matthews Ford offered a reduced price on the van. Previously, DeRomano had been using her own 1989 Dodge Caravan. The UAW donation will also contribute to further street outreach efforts.

DeRomano said she started the Wake Up Youth program to deal with prostitution because she understands what the women and girls she works with are going through. She said she was molested as a youth and later exploited herself to support a drug addiction.

“Everybody has a right to get help,” she said.

Wake Up Youth's drop-in center is located at 123 10th St. in Toledo. The organization also has a program that serves at-risk girls on probation. The number for Wake Up Youth's crisis line is (419) 870-4402. Those interested in making a donation to Wake Up Youth may call (419) 244-8911.
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