A facility in Vaudreuil aimed at helping women leave the sex trade that opens its doors on Friday is being touted as the first of its kind in Quebec, but its founders said not everyone is being welcoming.

‘La Sortie’ has received federal funding to try out its new model of helping women seeking to escape the sex trade, offering a shelter from which they can access other resources.

“I think Quebec has some really great programs,” said intervention counsellor Maylissa. “This is going to be tailored to her and we can accompany her to the service she needs.”

Chantal spent four years as an escort, but that ended with one violent night. Two decades later, she said she’s ready to revisit her past to show others there’s a way out. That comes down to one key message.

“You are a good person, you have value, not just what the pimp says your value is to bring money back,” she said.

However, the project has suffered a series of setbacks. The current building is a scaled-down version of a shelter the group tried to open on Ile-Bizard two years ago. That project was cancelled after neighbours came out in opposition.

“I was very shocked about that,” said Chantal. “’Oh yes, we will help you, but not on our street, not near our house.’”

Other groups in the sex trade have raised concerns about ‘La Sortie’s connection to an Evangelical church called ‘Catch the Fire.’ The founder of ‘La Sortie’ is a pastor for Catch the Fire in Pierrefonds and its director general, Ronald Lepage, is also a member.

Lepage said the shelter’s mission is a secular one.

“We know people can make associations, but we don’t pay attention to that, because we know who we are,” he said.