While driving to work last Tuesday, I got ensnared in the road construction and traffic backups on 22nd Street.
After navigating part of Caswell Hill, I managed to get across 22nd at Avenue M. As I was stopped on 20th Street, I was approached by a young woman who offered sex for money. It was 8: 20 a.m.
As I ignored her and turned left on 20th Street, the contrast couldn’t have been more stark. Riversdale is going through a rebirth and economic revival, yet here was a woman prostituting herself when she probably should have been attending school.
Two years ago, I walked down 20th Street with a camera. Looking back at my photos, I am amazed at the changes in the area since those photos were taken.
The city has improved the streetscaping. Shift Developments made an investment with The Two Twenty and Collective Coffee. New restaurants have opened up, others have reinvented themselves, or are moving in. The Friendship Inn has had a successful building campaign and features a new Rider green façade that looks great.
The side streets are showing signs of life, with new businesses moving in and new projects getting underway. Even the closure of the Little Chief police station will probably add to the street as new tenants move in.
If you are an entrepreneur, it is good in the ‘hood.
While the city, Riversdale BID and the business community have come together to do some great things for the business district in Riversdale and Pleasant Hill, a lot of the social issues have not been tackled.
While gentrification is happening in Riversdale through the improved quality of housing, proximately to downtown, a revitalized 20th Street and the Meewasin Valley improvements has pushed some of the poverty issues further west to Pleasant Hill and Confederation areas, and north toward Mayfair.
It’s progress if you own a home in Riversdale; not so much if you’re in one of the other neighbourhoods.
How bad is it in Mayfair? My wife works in retail and has had johns approach her on more than one occasion. She no longer feels safe walking the two short blocks home. She was also approached as she went into work one morning at 6 a.m.
With two "massage parlours" in the neighbourhood, a growing number of prostitutes along 33rd and side streets and, for a while, a brothel on our street, Mayfair has become an unofficial red light district. Along with the sex trade, we get discarded needles and johns circling the streets, and we get harassed by prostitutes as we walk to the grocery store in the evening.
Colleagues in Pleasant Hill tell me that spouses of staff members are often harassed by prostitutes as they wait for the midnight shift change.
Last summer, when I made regular 8: 30 a.m. trips to this facility, we were often greeted by the women working the side streets where they were not quite so visible to the police.
Traditionally, law enforcement has been used to stop prostitution and the accompanying crime it brings to neighbourhoods. It has worked in Riversdale. I rarely see the women on the corner on Avenues B to G any longer.
Five years ago, they would bring their johns to the parking lot across from the Salvation Army and the Farmers’ Market in case the trick goes bad, as it often does.
That never happens anymore. The johns now park on the side street beside my house in Mayfair. This is success if you live in Riversdale, but not so much for my children. In addition to a yearly tax increase, I now get to pick up used condoms and needles off my boulevard.
I wonder if this is the "right track" that the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce is speaking of ?
There are 600 women being trafficked in and out of Saskatoon. Reports say there may be as many as 200 underage girls engaged in prostitution. In addition, you have countless other women doing what they can to survive on the streets.
I have talked to many sex trade workers while at work at the Salvation Army. They have been deeply damaged by society, and many are struggling with mental health issues, addictions, or acquired brain injuries. They don’t need to be relocated, they need to be helped off the street.
While organizations like Egadz and their street outreach have made a big difference, more needs to be done. If not, the improvement and success of some neighbourhoods and business districts will continue to be paid for by those less fortunate.
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