(Q24N) San Jose, Costa Rica (CNN) On a chilly Saturday night in the Costa Rican capital, fashionable young couples pack into nightclubs and spill onto the sidewalks.
But that’s not the part of San Jose that Mariliana Morales wants to show us. She drives us down a quiet side street where the shuttered stores are covered in graffiti. On the corners, solitary women in high heels and bright lipstick stare down cars as they drive by.
“All of this area is prostitution,” says Morales, the founder of the Rahab Foundation, a non-profit that rescues, rehabilitates and supports survivors of sexual exploitation and helps those who want a change, to get off the street.
The first step is outreach, she says as we pull up to an abandoned strip alongside a railroad track where two individuals stand shivering in short skirts.
“This is their turf,” Morales says, as she steps out of the car, “all of the prostitutes around here are transgender.”
‘I’m the owner of the corner’
Morales says she was called by God to pull as many people off the streets as she can.
She comes armed with a thermos of sugary coffee with a hint of cinnamon and packets of cookies. Nicole and Rachel happily accept two steaming cups.
“I’ve been doing this for 17 years, I’m the owner of the corner,” says Nicole as she nibbles a cookie. “This is all we can do to support our households.”