Residents also have to take part in the two daily crafts and cooking workshops. The single television, in the patio, is turned on only after 6 p.m.; there is a rotating schedule for who gets the remote control. No drugs are allowed in the house.
Sometimes women who are not retired prostitutes are temporarily taken in, usually homeless women who are victims of abuse. All the women receive medical and psychological treatment.
“These are women who need much love, who feel much loneliness,” said Karla Romero Téllez, 29, the shelter’s volunteer psychologist. “But they are very strong. They are survivors. That is what defines them.”
Violence and abuse, damage and loss, are the threads that link all the stories in the house. Maria Norma Ruiz Sánchez, 65, was raped when she was 9, while walking back from school in a small rural town in Jalisco. The scar on her left thigh from the knife ripping off her school uniform is still there.
She ran away from home at 14, to escape her abusive brother. A truck driver gave her a ride to San Francisco. There, she spent her 15th birthday alone in a bedroom, eating chicken sandwiches and drinking beers.
But before long she returned to Mexico. She had the first of her four children at 16, worked in the fields, owned a cabaret, became a professional wrestler and had countless lovers but only one real love. She also tried to kill herself four times, the last time in a rented room at the Bar Nebraska on the outskirts of Guadalajara.
Ms. Sánchez still occasionally goes to her office, as she calls it, a park by the Hidalgo subway station where new clients and old memories converge in a haze. “I’m very tired, everything hurts,” she said. “I make jokes about my life so I can live day to day, but my sadness has no end.”