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NAME: Norma Hotaling

WHAT SHE DOES: Helps women get unhooked

CLAIM TO FAME: Prostitute-turned-educator

At 22, Angel Cassidy had been a prostitute for seven years when Norma Hotaling convinced her to stop in 1993. “She said, ‘You deserve more,'” says Cassidy, now a drug treatment counselor. “And she didn’t say what I was doing was wrong.”

“How could I?” laughs Hotaling, 45, who was herself a homeless prostitute addicted to heroin for eight years. She finally found help from San Francisco’s social services. But getting that help was too complicated, she thought. So after earning a degree in health education from San Francisco State University, she started counseling prostitutes on the streets and in jail. She also wrote the occasional editorial for local newspapers, opposing a growing movement to legalize prostitution in San Francisco.

In the process, she caught the eye of an old foe. “We arrested her over 35 times,” says Lt. Joe Dutto, the officer heading the San Francisco Police’s vice squad. “Norma was never a terrible, mean person but she was motivated by her drug addiction.” Dutto, who called Hotaling after reading her editorials, recruited her to counsel prostitutes, and the men arrested for soliciting them. She’s also an expert witness. “She’s perfect when we’re prosecuting a pimp, explaining the kind of control they have over prostitutes,” says Dutto. “She’s a lot more effective than a cop.”

Hotaling also founded Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE), a nonprofit group that offers prostitutes peer education, job training, and a mentorship program with businesswomen. She says she’s helped 35 women leave the streets in the last three years, and several have gone on to college. “For any of us to be sitting here is a miracle,” said Cassidy at a recent SAGE meeting. And she should know: Now happily married and a mother, she’s been off the streets for three years.

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