Back in the mid 90s there was a second paper in Saskatoon, a weekly called the Saskatoon Free Press. In it was a column called West Side Stories and it was stories about the rough and tumble west side. I read it religiously and dismissed every article and a bunch of baloney (I wonder if using a curse would have sounded better than baloney?). I refused to believe that even on 20th did women walk down alleys and shoot up after a night on the streets or prostitution was that much in the open. I have to admit that I never drove down 20th Street that much but when I needed to get a hockey stick at Joe’s Cycle, things seemed pretty under control (sans the time I got hit by a drunk in my mom’s van that was literally 2 hours old).
When I started at the Centre, on of my first training shifts involved me walking around with a staff member and doing a security round. As we went by a window around 5:00 a.m., I saw some prostitutes shooting themselves up in the alley and I realized I probably owed the author of the West Side Stories an apology and a little more respect. A couple of nights later I saw my first cab pull up to a flop house and toss a package up into a window and catch another package on its way down. Call my cynical but I don’t think that was two guys trading hockey cards or pogs.
Later on I saw a person I know stagger out of a truck parked across the street and come into the Centre for help. It was a trick gone wrong. I think most of this was witnessed in my first ten days of being here.
Tonight I had to work the midnight shift. A staff member was sick and by the time I got the phone call I had drank enough caffiene that sleep wasn’t going to happen. Our car needs a little work and it was nice out so I decided to walk to work. I grabbed a leash as well and along came Maggi for a walk. The dog has been freeloading off of Wendy and I long enough and it’s time she gets a job.
As I crossed between 22nd Street and 20th on Avenue C, there was a young girl walking ahead of me. The street is well lit and it wasn’t hard to see it was a female. I watched walk by a parked semi tractor and approach it. I saw her get in and by the time I walked by she was already engaged in a sex act. Not 10 minutes later another car drove into an Impark lot there into the darkened corner. The same thing was happening. I assume it will happen every night this summer.
The other day a guy who works for me went into a gas station on his way to work for some pop and cigarettes. As he was standing in line he observed a rather inappropriately dressed young girl but she was with her mother so he didn’t pay too much attention until he heard her say, “Here are your candy and chips. Now I need you to go out and make me some more money.” The mother was pimping out her own underage girl.
He came to work and did the same thing I did. He called the Saskatoon Police and reported what he saw. So did I (I wish I had my cell phone with me). I am quite sure that they dispatched some officers right away but even that doesn’t make me feel any better as the girls were probably out of there before I got to work.
Even if 20th Street was swarming tonight with Fenton Hardy type police officers doing stings on every block in the city, it doesn’t deal with the problem that there was a young girl tonight who felt like her best option was to crawl into a cab of a truck and perform oral sex on a stranger. It doesn’t deal with the issue that there are mothers who feel their best option in this world is to destroy their daughters and pimp them out as young girls. I know one mother who pimped out her mentally handicapped daughter for years and saw nothing wrong with it. What do you do with parents who are trafficking their own kids? What do you do when your 12 year old daughter is out walking the streets and no one cares where she is?
I remember the emotion that I had when Mark was born. I had been up for 48 hours or so and on my way home from the hospital, I stopped at Toys R Us for a bear to give to him. I thought of all of good and great things I hoped for him from the moment that Wendy told me she was pregnant. Deep down I think all parents want that for their kids.
What horrible things happen to one’s soul to move from great dreams to actively hurting your kids in a way they may never recover from? Not only that but how do we break that cycle?