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HOUSTON The faltering economy appears to be having a positive impact on a Houston neighborhood that was once plagued by street walkers.

They re not here anymore, said John Branch, a local activist in the Independence Heights neighborhood. The prostitutes don t have their customers and the drug dealers don t have theirs.

Branch s sentiments appear to be backed up by experts, who believe economic-hard times are driving prostitutes off the streets. Kathryn Griffin runs a prostitute rehabilitation program called We ve Been There, Done that, and said more women are seeking her help now than ever before.

I m completely booked by young ladies who were accustomed to making a substantial amount of money and have seen the cutback, Griffin said.

One woman who recently walked through Griffin s door also blamed the poor economy for helping steer her off the streets.

I hit rock-bottom and remember standing along the freeway trying to decide if I was going to throw myself into on-coming traffic, said Catherine McAdoo, who spent 15 years as a prostitute. I m trying to do something different with my life now.

Branch, meanwhile, continues to savor his neighborhood s changing image.

There used to be eight or nine prostitutes fighting on the corner. You don t see that anymore and that s a good thing, he said.

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