Natasha Guynes is founder and president of HER Resiliency Center. (Andre Chung/for The Washington Post)

Natasha Guynes, 35, is president and founder of HER Resiliency Center, a nonprofit for vulnerable young women. She lives in Washington.

I’m going to thumbnail-sketch you for a second, and I’m sorry about that. You went from being a commercial sex worker to working on Capitol Hill.

I moved to D.C. when I was 20. Things deteriorated very quickly. For me, drugs and alcohol came after the escort work. It was me trying to cover those traumas. Until I hit a bottom where I didn’t want to be touched, didn’t want to be looked at, I was not fit for work. End of that year, I got sober in a 12-step recovery program. The women in that program didn’t just say, “Go do this and come back and tell me how it works,” but they literally would show me step by step how to be an adult.

When you say escort work, it was through an agency?

The media has glamorized who I worked for. It’s not glamorous. Even though the D.C. Madam was a high-profile escort service, they weren’t all high-profile people we were going to see, and it was quite scary. To have a choice in the matter, you have to have choices.

How did you go from a homeless shelter to Congress?

A lot of years in between! At our employment empowerment workshops I like to tell the story about how my first job in sobriety was working at Safeway. I balanced a till every night, and I hated that job. And I tell them my last job on Capitol Hill was running $3.5 million budgets. If I hadn’t learned how to balance my drawer at the end of the night at Safeway, would I have known how to balance a budget at the United States Senate?

Was there any time that you had to keep people [on the Hill] from knowing things about you?

2012 or ’13, the D.C. Madam’s phone records were online. Someone I’d worked with in a senator’s office was circulating it. It had gotten back to one of my favorite people on the Hill. And I went and talked with him and said, “It’s not true!” I later had to go back [and tell him it was].

Any moment [from HER Resiliency Center] that’ll stick with you?

One woman had signed up for all these student loans, but we found out that since she’s from the foster care system in Maryland her tuition to community college is waived.

You saved her a lifetime of debt!

I took one [woman] on an interview to a grocery store, and she didn’t own a bra. Didn’t have one with her and didn’t own one. The shocker of that day was “We’ve got to make sure they all have bras.”

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