Tag Archives: prostitution

Corbella: Allowing brothels will make things worse for prostitutes

Lisa Corbella in the Calgary Herald

On Sept. 28, 2010, Ontario Superior Court Justice Susan Himel struck down three sections of Canada’s prostitution laws because they exposed sex-trade workers to unreasonable risk.

Himel ruled that communicating for the purposes of prostitution, living on the avails of prostitution and keeping a common bawdy house force sex-trade workers from the safety of their homes and onto the streets, where they are more vulnerable to violence.

The Criminal Code provisions, wrote Himel in her 131-page ruling, “force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their security of the person as protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Himel’s ruling was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court is the end of the line in terms of ensuring that these Criminal Code provisions are not discarded — thus legalizing brothels, pimping and potentially even the bold kind of soliciting made so infamous in Amsterdam’s red-light district.

Natasha Falle, who calls herself a sex-trade survivor, says “women like me don’t think the way to protect women is behind legislated doors.”

Speaking at Servants Anonymous’ Cry of the Streets — Evening of Freedom fundraising event May 30 in Calgary, Falle says more women will be enslaved by human traffickers if those laws are deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Looking much younger than her 40 years, Falle is the founder of Sextrade 101 — a public awareness organization and an instructor of police foundations at Humber College in Toronto.

She intends to show up at the Supreme Court next week holding a “pimp stick” — an unravelled coat hanger that her pimp would often heat up on the stove and then use to whip her. Other former sex trade survivors will show up with other torture tools commonly used by pimps, such as curling irons and belts.

The daughter of a former Calgary police officer who, ironically, worked in the vice department, and a mother who worked in a bridal salon, Falle says she turned her first trick in Calgary’s Chinatown when she was 14 with a man with rotten teeth.

Her parents had split up and her family life fell apart. Falle started sleeping on friends’ couches until she wound up on the sofa of four young prostitutes whose pimp was out of town. Pretty soon, Falle followed their lead. At least they had a place to live and food to eat.

“I was trafficked across the country by the man who recruited me and who made false white-picket-fence intimacy promises,” Falle told the crowd.

“I made a lot of money. I bought my pimp a Mercedes. I had a Mustang, we lived in a penthouse, but I was still subjected to all of the violence,” she said. “He broke my arms, my ribs; my nose has been broken three times.”

Her point? This happened indoors. Not on the streets. The former prostitute says the worst beating she ever got was in a common bawdy house she shared with four other teens, so the idea that there’s safety in numbers is a myth.

Falle asks Canadians to consider what will happen to young women and girls should those prostitution laws be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Prostitution will become a licensed business, pimps will be legitimate business people, billboards advertising brothels could start appearing on roadsides and “a brothel could open up in the apartment next to yours or in the house next to yours,” Falle says.

While prostitution is legal in Canada, running a bawdy house, living off of the avails and soliciting for the purposes of prostitution are not.

“If we legalize these three areas, will brothels be allowed to set up a booth at the high school job fair?” she asks.

Just last month, two men were arrested in the Toronto area after recruiting a teenage Windsor girl to work in a strip club. They then took her to Toronto, where they forced her to prostitute herself.

“I think many well-meaning Canadians support Bedford’s challenge against Canada’s prostitution laws because they believe it will help vulnerable women,” Falle says. “But they are mistaken. It will make things much worse. It will legitimize pimping and human trafficking. It will enslave more women and girls.”

Corbella is right.  All of the serious research that is out there shows that brothels are violent, violent places where women suffer and are exploited even in places like Nevada where they are illegal.  This does not help women, it exploits them even more.

Amsterdam’s (failed) quest to tame prostitution

From The Atlantic

Has Amsterdam had enough of its breezy reputation? It may be famous for its in-your-face window prostitution, but the city has just voted to place tighter controls on its brothels. From this summer onwards, Amsterdam’s legal age for prostitution will rise from 18 to 21, and brothels will be forced to remain closed between four and nine in the morning. Prostitutes will have to pass language tests and have shorter shifts, while brothel keepers will be obliged to produce business plans demonstrating how they will protect their workers’ health and safety.

Seen from a country where prostitution is largely banned, these changes might seem laughably modest. They’re carefully targeted nonetheless. Younger women are most likely to fall victim to human traffickers, while those that don’t speak any Dutch or English find it much harder to contact police or social workers in cases of abuse. Meanwhile, early morning closure is planned because the time of day is seen as a problem period, with nobody else about in the streets to monitor or rein in bad behavior. Amsterdam’s city council considers the moves so vital that the city is going it alone, introducing laws that (while currently being debated) haven’t yet passed through the Dutch Parliament.

Amsterdam’s haste is understandable. It may be well policed and eye-poppingly unusual, but the city’s central red light district still feels like a place where women’s hopes go to die. Around 75 percent of the 5,000 to 8,000 prostitutes working in the city are from abroad, and many are believed to have been trafficked. Holland legalized prostitution in 2000 as a way of stopping exploitation, but evidence suggests that more women than ever are being forced into brothels against their will. A study from the London School of Economics published this winter found that in countries where selling sex was decriminalized, human trafficking has increased. While the number of women entering prostitution voluntarily grows under legalization, demand grows yet further, creating a shortfall filled by women trafficked and run by pimps.

I have read several articles that say that it also just raises the bar when it comes to kink.  Instead of going to the red light district, men want the increased thrill of using women outside the red light district.  The red light district solves (or tries to solve) some problems while creating new ones.

Mayfair

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that Dave Winer was using Cyclemeter, a iPhone app that measures and maps out your ride times.  While I don’t cycle too much to work (with all of the construction, storage is at a premium), I have been walking a lot and using Walkmeter to track, map, and guilt me into walking more.  So far I hate it but I am walking around 6.14 kms a day.  While I was walking home the other day, I ran into a neighbor who was asking us if we were moving because we have been working in the yard this summer.  The truth is that with Wendy’s depression hitting on schedule this spring, we just got behind and were catching up.  Instead of walking into Safeway, saying hi to Wendy, and then heading down Avenue D, we went down Avenue B.  It was like I was in a different city.  Girls working the block, abandoned homes, boarded up windows, overgrown yards; it was a mess.  As we walked down the street he said to me, “this part of Mayfair has gone to shit” and I couldn’t agree more.  The housing stock has always been poor on these two blocks but it has gotten worse in the last couple of years.  The sidewalks were a mess and the roads were, well like a lot of roads in the city, a mess.

It’s just not Avenue B.  On Sunday afternoon Wendy had run to Co-op to get some Peat Moss for the yard and I was out watering some of it and enjoying a rather bland diabetic friendly iced tea on the front stop.  A women walked by, lifted her shirt, showed her chest and cooled herself off.  She then offered to give me a blow job for some of that beer (iced tea) that I was drinking.  Bring propositioned was one thing but flashing my 12 year old son wasn’t that cool (although he may disagree with me).  I have heard that prostitution is down on 33rd Street but it has moved along the side streets.  Wendy sees them many times while walking to Safeway for a 2:00 p.m. shift while Mark has been solicited (again, he is twelve) many times walking to and from the store, a distance of two blocks.   Prostitution is like a game of “whack a mole”, you remove from one area, it springs up in different areas.  The crackdown on 20th Street moved it to 33rd, the crackdown on 33rd moves it to my block.  Apparently that is progress.  I have confidence in the police.  They will crack down on Avenue’s C, D, and E, and the problem will move somewhere else.  I don’t blame the police for this but as a homeowner you wish the “mole” hadn’t appeared on your street and that the prostitution had gone somewhere else. 

Tonight was probably the last night that I will think of Mayfair as home.  Tonight Wendy and I were chatting about an upcoming trip and we heard a gunshot.  As I looked up the non 9-1-1 number, another gunshot went off behind what sounded to be Carpenter’s Church.  Gunshot number three sounded like it was in our backyard (although I assumed it was in the vacant lot or alley behind us) and we saw the muzzle flash of gunshot number four (although Wendy says we saw muzzle flash number 3 and just heard number 4).

Wendy had called the police and we were asked, “how do you know it’s a gunshot” and it’s a fair question which is hard to answer without being flippant.  We have fireworks and fire crackers going off here all summer along.  The dogs don’t even respond to it.  We don’t respond to it.  There is a distinctive noise that a gun makes and one that a fire cracker makes.  This was a gun (at the cabin we hear gun fire all of the time but in rural Saskatchewan its not that threatening).  I was told that Saskatoon Police responded and didn’t find a weapon so they can’t open an investigation.  That’s not their fault yet part of me goes what happens next time when one of those shots goes into Oliver’s bedroom? 

Mayfair has had two long time drug house running drug houses on the 1200 block of Avenue D (one closed, one still active), one on Avenue E (closed), two massage parlours on 33rd Street (open), another illegal brothel on Avenue D (run by someone on federal parole and now closed), a massage parlour run by Hell’s Angels, the bar that hosts the Terror Squad, illegal boarding house after illegal boarding house all over the neighbourhood, one really high profile location that flaunts their non-compliance with zoning, a regular dial-a-dope drop on my street corner (by the time it clicks in what just happened, they are gone).  The vaunted Local Area Plan (of which I am a believer) has been delayed longer than the city’s recycling plan.  Of course when it was planned, I was told that Mayfair was next because it was a neighborhood in crisis.  Nothing helps a crisis like a year long delay.   There is no functioning community association, Wendy gets solicited walking home from Safeway on a regular basis and my neighbours are scared.  I used to ignore them and their fears but now I agree with what they are saying.

Tomorrow when I complain to the police (for not even letting us know via the phone that they had driven by) I will hear that crime is down in the area, patrols are up, and there are beat cops on 33rd and all of it is true.  Then I will spend some time thinking how much longer I want to live in what is becoming increasingly violent and scary area of Saskatoon.

One of my core beliefs that it never gets so bad that you can’t make it better.  I have always criticized those that fled to other neighborhoods when it got tough because this is what happens but where the hell do you go from here?  I just don’t know.

Column: Prostitution a complex issue

This week’s column for The StarPhoenix.

logo_saskatoonstarphoenix At work we deal with a database that has been developed by the federal government to help shelters such as ours to keep accurate statistics.

Like anything designed by bureaucrats, it’s unwieldy, crashes a lot and doesn’t really do anything that’s very useful. It publishes inaccurate reports that need to be manually checked, thus eliminating the efficiency that should come from its use.

Despite my dislike of the software, I realized that it could be useful in helping us understand and track the contributing factors to homelessness. To implement these ideas, I needed input from others on what we wanted to track and the best ways to do that.

During this discussion on contributing factors, the issue of sex trade workers arose. Staff pulled 20 random files of self-identified sex trade workers. A glance at the files showed 19 of the 20 had mental health problems. All 20 spoke of substance abuse issues. Many spoke of significant ongoing health issues such as HIV/hepatitis C or recent miscarriages.

Within hours of coming off the street and getting some food and sleep, the women were back on the street, looking for their next fix or hooking up with their pimp before they were missed. I see in the women who come in for meals the toll the sex trade takes on them.

One woman who has been coming in for years has started to lose a lot of weight, around 60 pounds on a frame that to begin with didn’t have any to lose. She is skin and bones, except for the parts of her body where she’s injecting the drugs.

When she comes in for meals, her limbs are often flailing uncontrollably. She seems to struggle with her body control as she gets some food before heading back out to work at a nearby restaurant parking lot.

The other day I watched her for more than an hour as she tried to score drugs, sex and even coffee in a parking lot.

Panhandling, prostituting and drug dealing – she’s doing whatever it takes to get through the day and the next bit of drugs. Eventually it is off to the Salvation Army or the Friendship Inn for a meal, and then it’s back to what she needs to do to survive.

How does one get to this point?

Last year, I sat in on the Salvation Army’s john school. It’s an alternative sentencing program for men who have been charged with soliciting. Staff occasionally sit in to better understand what life is like for the women on the streets and one of the first things I learned was that they weren’t women but girls when they started.

Many lost their virginity to johns when they were as young as age 11. I had a conversation with a researcher last week who spoke of a parent saying, "I put my girls on the streets because that is what my parents did to me."

An April 2002 StarPhoenix front page story spoke of girls recruiting girls into the sex trade, with pimps as young as 12.

I keep hoping we’ve made progress, but a recent conversation with City Centre Church’s Chris Randall confirmed that it’s still happening; they are seeing preteen girls come in from the streets.

Last year I gave countless tours to Catholic school division elementary school teachers and heard the same stories from them: Parents who don’t care, siblings using younger children to advance their own standing in gangs, or families living off the money their daughters bring home.

If that is how it starts for a street worker, how does it stop? This question has haunted me over the past few weeks.

Any extra money will go to drugs. Food will go to her pimp. If she is charged and incarcerated, what’s even 90 days in a provincial jail going to do? It’s not enough time to get the mental health care she needs or time enough to deal with the addictions. When she is back out, where does she turn?

Statistically, the chances are it will stop with her death. If it’s not the drugs that kill her, it will be a trick gone bad, a sexually transmitted infection or a beating from her pimp that goes too far. These women are treated as disposable human beings and, when their lives end, it is often attributed to "a high-risk lifestyle."

The truth is a lot sadder and complicated, but that is of little comfort to those trapped in it.

jordon@jordoncooper.com

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

A pimp business plan

A pimping business planA pimping business plan

According to Youth Radio

The FBI estimates that a mid-level trafficker can make more than $500,000 dollars a year by marketing just four girls.  With so much money being made through trafficking, police say long standing networks of gangs and drug dealers are starting to cross over because they see sex trafficking as an easier game. The potential prison sentences are much lower and the game is less dangerous if you are a pimp or a trafficker.

Youth Radio obtained a hand-written business plan from a pimp. The business plan titled Keep It Pimpin states how the pimp wants to expand his trafficking business locally as well as nationally. He also writes that he wants to discover girls “from all over”–especially girls in jail houses and in small cities.

Alameda County DA Sharmin Bock says the pimp business plan represents a larger pimp mentality. “He said ‘I’m going to take it from the concrete streets to the executive suites.’ And that means ultimately you do want to be in those executive suites,” Bock says. “Ultimately you do want to be doing the big ticket sales of children all over the country. And sadly today there is no better bang for your buck, no better investment on your money, no better return, than selling a child for sex.”

It’s sick to read but it’s why most street level prostitution in the city is run by the gangs, the money is too good to be true.  When I worked nights at work and before the Farmer’s Market was opened, girls took many johns to that area and did their tricks there.  Many of them would come in beaten badly and instead of wanting the police or first aid help, they wanted us to go out and get their $60 back.  I am not sure what $60 gets you (and I never asked but I assume it was sex with a condom, bareback sex apparently costs a lot more) but it was always $60 so I am assuming it was the lowest rate.

Here’s the math at at that rate.

  • $500,000 a year / 4 girls = $125,000
  • $125,000 / 350 nights a year (nights off for illness and recovery from violence) = $358 a night
  • $358 a night / $60 trick = 6 tricks or more a night.

Just think about that number for a moment.  via

Indoors isn’t safer: Former prostitutes

From the Toronto Sun

Katarina MacLeod, who has been out of the sex trade business for the last two years but spent 17 years working in a bawdy house, disagrees with the premise.

“Indoors isn’t safer,” MacLeod said. “It is complete hell inside and the customer is always right. They can beat you and take tour money.

“I suffered for 17 years at the hands of men,” said MacLeod.

“The location didn’t make us safer, the men who we were with made us unsafe,” she said. “Even if there is a panic button in the room, how do you get to it?”

MacLeod said she worked with girls as young as 12-years-old.

Pimps “have a look they like and an age they like,” MacLeod said. “They had cameras and could see the police coming in and we would run them out the back door.”

Prostitution is the abuse of women plain and simple, said Natasha Falle, founder of Sex Trade 101.

“My pimp kept me behind closed doors,” she said. “He wanted me behind closed doors so he could keep an eye on me.

“Purchasing sex doesn’t make you a real man,” Falle said. “Only 1% of prostitutes say they enjoy sex with johns and 97% say they want to get out.

What’s Next?

A couple of weeks ago now I resigned by job.  Like any life decision like that there are a lot of reasons but in the end I was feeling really tired and in some ways burned out.  Wendy’s depression is worse now than it has ever been and that takes a toll on the entire family (she’s making an ugly, ugly transition to yet another stronger anti-depressant without being weaned off the old one right now).  While the job wasn’t burning my out, life was taking a toll on all of us and we have a very hard time getting treatment in Saskatchewan, heck, we can’t even get her old clinic to transfer her medical files to the new doctor

After I made it public that I was looking for a new challenge, several serious job offers came in and we looked at some opportunities that would change our financial position substantially and one in particular that would give me and the family an opportunity to travel and live abroad.  Another offer was a great job in a particularly evil company.  Not quite big tobacco or working for the GOP but evil enough that I am sure that all go for supper together.  I have lived in the prairies my entire life and the opportunity to raise Mark and Oliver in a different culture and worldview was something that I wanted to do since Mark was born.  I am also getting to the age where I think a little more about retirement each year and this would give us a chance to retire with a little more money in the bank.  While the Salvation Army treats me quite fairly, as a non-profit, it can’t compare to the compensation of evil publically traded companies.  Whatever my job decision was going to be, I had planned to wrap up work here last Wednesday and start at my new job in late September.  I was asked to reconsider my decision and stay here as well but at the time, I was at peace with moving on to new challenges.

It wasn’t a easy decision to make as we balanced Wendy’s access to treatment, what was good for the boys, what our goals were as a family, and also some pretty strong ties to Saskatoon, particularly the core neighbourhoods of Saskatoon.  During this time of evaluation, there was a murder (more) that bothered me deeply.  I know both the victim and the accused from work and while I was processing that death, we had a death at work.  After hours of questioning by the police, crime scene investigators and major crimes (don’t worry, it was a death from natural causes), I drove our former chaplain up to St. Paul’s Hospital as he was off to see a dying friend.  While I tend to drive up 19th Street to avoid the traffic on 20th, I drove back down 20th Street that night.  I have never seen 20th Street like that.  I counted 14 girls clearly working the stroll.  Three of them looked to be underage.  Guys were on the street corners as I watched 2 drug deals go down.  I know that isn’t typical for 20th Street and was like that because the Saskatoon Exhibition was in town which brings in a lot of out of town customers.  As I left the Centre that night around 10:00 p.m., I turned back up 19th and as I was turning the corner, I watched a taxi complete a brazen dial-a-dope transaction at the phone booth across the street from the Centre.  Of course the prostitutes were on 33rd Street that night (Wendy later told me that there has been as many as four in the Safeway parking lot on shift).  I got home, grabbed a Diet Coke, grabbed my Moleskine and started to jot down some notes for how things had changed since I started working at the Salvation Army in Riversdale and on the west side.

What we do at the Salvation Army Community Services is both really simple in concept and really complex in how it is executed.  The concepts are pretty easy.  We provide meals, food, budget management help, and emergency assistance to those that need it.  The nuances of distributing those goods, paying for it, being paid for it, determining need and the appropriate response is what is so complex.  It takes a lot of staff, volunteers, officers, and money to make it happen.

The operational side I have a firm grasp on, it is that simple stuff that was troubling me.  The Centre does a really good job at doing what we do but what haunted me as I went to bed that night was, are we doing the right things?

I came in and talked with some other managers about what I was thinking.  I think the Salvation Army Community Services does a lot of really good things but Riversdale has changed.  While getting the Mumford House ready for it’s opening, I drove a lot between the two locations and on every corner around the women’s shelter, there are girls working on the corners… at 8:30 a.m.  Even during the opening of the Mumford House I watched girls on the corner.  While I have been complaining night and day about prostitution in Mayfair, girls are working the streets in Confederation Park and even as far west as Pacific Heights.  90% of the girls on the streets are being trafficked by a variety of sources.  They are moving out of the stroll (women can be as territorial as the men and if they don’t come up with a new territory, they get beaten if they don’t bring him the money).

It’s just not the prostitution.  It’s the drugs, the increase in violence, and the sense of hopelessness from not being able to get ahead.  13.2% of residents in the core neighbourhoods of Saskatoon don’t have a grade nine education.  (including 21.0% of those in Riversdale and 18.4 of those in Pleasant Hill).  While 11% of Saskatoon is made up of one parents families, 24 % of Riversdale households are single parents families.  Not to get all Dan Quayle on you or anything but Wendy and I have a hard time raising kids on two salaries and very little child care costs (we work opposite hours).  How much harder is it to go alone?  A sign of disenfranchisement many households feel, only 13% of Pleasant Hill residents turned out to vote in the last civic election (vs. 50% of voters in Briarwood).   Of course one doesn’t need to channel the spirit of Thomas Homer-Dixon to realize how problems can be even more complex than the combined statistical analysis… and believe me, the stats show a complex problem.

We are left with two alternatives.  During this time, I finished up an internal proposal to go to the Salvation Army for a new facility.  It’s no secret that Saskatoon needs more shelter beds.  In addition to more beds, it redesigns how we accommodate our residents so they are more comfortable and guys can have a better rest.  More youth rooms, more mental health rooms, a wing for grumpy old men, transitional rooms, a small half gym, computer facilities, a coffee shop/drop in space, and lots of green space for our guys.  It’s not perfect, I couldn’t figure out how to slide a go-cart track past the bureaucracy but will we see.

As I finished it up, I realized that what we were proposing a dam and levy system for many of our residents.  While they were at the Centre, they would be safe and secure and maybe even get ahead of the game but when many left, they get swamped by what is outside of the Centre.  There is value in creating safe spaces but eventually you have to leave and go out in the real world.  Too high of rent, too low of income, stuck in a flophouse, surrounded by drugs, forced to take a bad roommate, mental health and addiction problems and trapped in poverty.  Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that life should be hard at times but the obstacles confronting our clients are considerable.    So I was left with an architectural solution (increase the size of dorms to X number of dorm beds and even more private rooms for grumpy old men and then keep building and building and building) or we figure out a way to help our clients live back in the community amongst the alcohol, drugs, violence, and exploitation.  By doing so, we would also be changing the character of those neighbourhoods.  Of course of the two, the second option is a lot harder to do.

As I was thinking about this, I was at the Front Desk the other night when a women came in.  The Emergency After Hours worker was swamped with other clients and the women was upset and crying.  I took her into a room off the office, left the door open (and it’s on camera) and started to see what she needed.  She needed accommodation and I asked a couple of questions which she was quite forthcoming in answering.  The details aren’t that important but drugs, acquired brain injury, prostitution to make ends meet, a couple of bad tricks.  As the staff found a place for her at a local women’s shelter, I had two thoughts.  One this women in someone’s daughter and secondly as her face and neck had the signs of being beaten up by a john, will she escape this cycle first or will she end up being another statistic?

So what can I do?  What can we do?  I’ll get into this in a lot of detail later but there is a lot that we can do about this.  I think that is what kept me here, there is stuff that I can do as an individual, I can do within the organization, and we can do as an organization of other community based partners.    As Margaret Mead once said, Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. 

Prostitution in Mayfair

The Star Phoenix has an article on the increase of street prostitution in my neighborhood.

1947742.bin Ground zero for the sex-trade workers is hard to pinpoint, but the new stroll is anchored by 33rd Street West, stretching by some estimates to 38th Street, between Idylwyld Drive and Avenue G North.

"(It) turns into a different place after 10:30 at night," said Sharon Loeppky, who organizes a citizens’ patrol for the Hudson Bay Park/Mayfair community association.

"We’re not confrontational. We just walk. We try and make the johns uncomfortable. Those girls, I don’t believe they’ve chosen this life."

The migration of prostitutes from the 20th Street West area may have happened for a couple of reasons, said Hill, such as the closure of the notorious Barry Hotel and the prevalence of massage parlors in the 33rd Street West area.

I hold the city responsible for this as Mayfair is home to many of the city’s brothels massage parlors.   While there is a difference in what happens behind closed doors and street prostitution, for those of us who live in close proximity to one brothels massage parlor (it’s half a block down the street), the high speed traffic out of there is incredible and someone is going to die there if something isn’t done.  We live in a neighborhood where young kids run the streets 24/7 during the summer and weekends and now we have traffic approaching 100 km. zooming down Avenue D North.

It’s a blue collar working class neighborhood.  It doesn’t deserve to be “ground zero” for prostitutes and brothels massage parlors.  Wendy doesn’t need to be harassed coming home from work at Safeway by johns and neither does anyone else.

My other issue with this article was this statement by the Saskatoon Police Service.

Until the town hall meeting with 45 residents, police weren’t aware of the increased activity, said Engele.

I have e-mailed, talked to individual cops and called the police and invited them to park beside my house for a night to see what goes on a couple of blocks off 33rd street.  Apparently they need more invites but what more do I have to do?  It’s frustrating for everyone but with the other sex trade shops in our neighborhood and on my block, doesn’t that become an invitation for street prostitution and drugs?

West Side Stories

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?