A facility designed to house and offer support for sex workers looking to leave the trade is being billed as the first of its kind in Quebec.

“La Sortie,” or “The Way Out,” is a bungalow in Vaudreuil, Que., just outside Montreal, that has been converted to a shelter for sex workers looking to escape the industry. The organization will have resources for the workers and will offer transportation to any external help they might need.

“Quebec, I think, has amazing programs and we want to use those programs,” Maylissa, an intervention counsellor who did not offer her last name, told CTV Montreal.

“It’s really going to be tailored what (the sex worker) needs and we’re going to be able to accompany her to the different resources.”

The shelter plans to open on Friday with support from a federal grant, but it’s been a long road getting to where they are today. The current building is a scaled-down version of what they hoped to open two years ago in nearby Ile-Bizard, but the project had to be cancelled after neighbours opposed it.

For Chantal, a former sex worker who now sits on the La Sortie board, it felt like residents were eager to help, as long as the facility wasn’t in their neighbourhood.

“I was very shocked about that,” she said.

Groups within the sex trade have raised concerns the facility is too closely aligned with an Evangelical church called “Catch the Fire,” where La Sortie’s founder is a pastor.

Ronald Lepage, La Sortie’s director general and also a member of the church, insists the shelter’s goal is secular.

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

With a report from CTV Montreal’s Annie DeMelt