An update on my concerns

Sept. 21, 2013 Note: If you buy sex, please participate in a confidential online survey that hopefully will to inform the development of education, service delivery, policy, and legislation that better meets the needs of ALL people involved in Canada’s commercial sex industry. 

It’s been awhile since my posts expressing my concern about prostitution in east downtown Kitchener so I wanted to share a quick update with you.

I have been pursuing my two prong strategy to put an end to address the problem of sex workers in and near my neighbourhood–and without simply moving them to someone else’s neighbourhood.

Reporting to Police

I have made many calls to the police to report the activities of sex workers. It’s not every day but it’s still often enough that I continue to be concerned. I am not alone. I know of at least one other neighbour who is also calling in reports.

I find that the most frequent location for these women is the corner of King and Eby. In many ways, this intersection is where the east end of downtown Kitchener begins and so is where the most attention is needed by social service agencies and law enforcement. But that is not the only area of concern since some of the women do work further east.

The police are definitely aware of the problem and where it exists. And I’ve noticed a definite difference when a  police cruiser is parked along this stretch while waiting for a call than when they aren’t around. This attention to the east end of downtown is appreciated though I’m still hoping to see more officers on foot, bicycles or horses especially at peak times (when clients are going to or from work).

Outreach by social service agencies

My wife and I met with Cathy Middleton of the YWCA who is co-chair of the Sex Workers Action Network. She agreed that there was no reason why we should need to accept this situation anymore than people who live near Ottawa and Fischer-Hallman or Ottawa and River Rd–not to mention Westmount and Glasgow. She informed us that there had been talk about having outreach workers help the women to address their issues such as poverty and drug addiction. A similar program has been extremely successful in assisting people experiencing homelessness in the downtown core. She was hopeful that existing workers could play a role in the short term until a dedicated program could be established. The inREACH program to help youth involved in gangs or at risk of becoming involved is another model of collaborative action to address a pressing social concern in Waterloo Region.

I have been in touch with Cathy a couple of times since and unfortunately summer has impeded any progress but she’s promised to continue to pull the players together who can make something happen. I look forward to hearing about what action they plan to take.

Some other perspectives on prostitution

There have been some other people talking about prostitution since my posts.

  • Emily Baetz wrote an excellent column about the underlying root causes for why women sell their bodies on the street and some of the ways they are currently being addressed locally.
  • My posts inspired a local podcast called Slightly Sauced to talk about prostitution. Here is a direct link to the conversation. There ares some interesting insights mixed in with the jokes though not all of it is well informed. I wish that most of the group had actually read my posts and were familiar with my community-building, social justice focus before commenting.  I can assure them for example that the sex workers I see at street corners would never be mistaken for a university student heading out for a night on the town. Nor am I an old curmudgeon who should mind his own business. If anything, recent events have reinforced the need for our neighbourhood be proactive and ensure it continues to be a great place to live and raise a family. It would have been a much different conversation if I could have participated as I was invited to do.

33 comments on “An update on my concerns

  1. James, I spend a lot of time in the area of King and Eby streets and personally know many of the working girls you speak of. The situations surrounding prostitution are heartbreaking on so many levels. Emily’s article was a great source of information on the reasons why women sell their bodies and most of us know the levels of poverty, emotional, physical and sexual abuse inflicted on these women from their childhoods throughout adulthood.

    I’ve never called the police on a sex worker (although admittedly, I live in uptown Waterloo, far from the problem area) what I do when I see them is engage them. It’s important for every single person on Earth to know they are loved. Regardless of how much work social service agencies do and how many connections they make, the workers are considered to these girls to be “establishment” and the girls feel that they are connecting with them because it’s their job. I (and on Tuesdays, my street ministry team) hand them water, offer them food and a smile. In the beginning, they don’t trust you. The eyes narrow and start to dart back and forth, they get fidgety and nervous, wondering why in the world someone is being nice to them. Then after time, a remarkable change happens. When they see you coming, they smile. A genuine, honest to goodness smile comes to their lips and a twinkle of familiarity and hopeful expectation flashes in the eye. You may be the only kind face they see that day or even that week and you can see the appreciation they have for your kindness in body language and expression.

    Will kindness move the sex workers from your area? Maybe, and maybe not. But I don’t think that moving these girls to another area is the solution you are seeking. Your kindness will, however, help to repair some of the damage that has been inflicted on these poor women over the years. Your kindness may plant the tiniest seed of trust in the human race again. With mutual respect, the girl(s) may just move away from your neighborhood because that’s how she can show you that she appreciates what you do.

    No one will ever get ahead if they are constantly being thrown in and out of jail cells and courtrooms but when they are blessed with the kindness of strangers, their heart will begin to soften, their eyes will begin to open and eventually their spirit will begin to heal from the years of abuse, addiction and system failures that have led them to this place to begin with.

    • Thanks for your contribution. I agree that human compassion can be an important part of what I call the smart on crime approach. I’m glad that you and others are able to do so. I hope it helps the women transition to a better place. I am not in a place where I can do that now. For me, they are a sign of an area that is hurting and that drugs, violence and other related problems–including people desperately living in poverty–are not far away. I want better for my neighbourhood and east downtown Kitchener. I’m not seeking to move the problem, I just want to live in a thriving diverse neighbourhood that is probably like yours in downtown Waterloo.

  2. James,

    I’m one of the participants in Slightly Sauced – thanks for the link and commentary, even if you thought we weren’t informed in all of our points. I have to disagree that we didn’t read your posts; your site is one of my regular reads through RSS. I would still stand behind our arguments as a reasonable counterpoint to the previous posts on the prostitution subject.

    For all your social justice and community work, though, to me it doesn’t appear that you’ve had a consistent approach to the issue. In https://kingandottawa.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/prostitution-in-east-downtown-kitchener/, you mention:

    “Her shear black top with no bra was clearly inappropriate to wear in public at nearly any time or place–and definitely not at that time or place. So I stood on the other side of the street and quietly waited until she knew I was there and that I would wait there until she moved away.”

    How passive-aggressive and non-productive is that? You’re going to shame someone by giving them a disapproving look? In addition, you’re providing your opinion of the appropriateness of a woman’s clothing. Legally, she could be topless in the same place at the same time; what you find inappropriate is not necessarily a crime or indicative of criminal activity.

    To me, those two actions fit the exact definition of the curmudgeon attitude you deny in this followup post. I guess my main question is, would you change your approach to the same scenario from when you first posted in July?

    • Thanks for commenting Jake. I’m glad to hear you read the posts but there were definitely comments and questions about them that indicated not everyone did.

      The short answer to your question is that I know call the police when I have spent enough time to believe I have reasonable grounds to do so. No one including the police and SWAN have denied that there is a prostitution problem in what I describe as east side downtown Kitchener so while you may be willing to give the benefit of the doubt I am not willing to accept this activity. The occasion you mentioned when I wasn’t sure what to do is what spurred me to be proactive. I see that as community building. Prostitutes will always continue to exist but working on the streets does nothing to contribute to a vibrant neighbourhood.

  3. James:
    The Cedar Hill Community Group has been actively involved in the issues of drugs and prostitution for over 20 years. Eby Street is one of 10 streets that we would delineate as the Cedar Hill Community.
    Our community has successfully “weathered” the onslaught of this insidious and extremely complex issue and is now happily enjoying a “renaissance”. We are attracting many young students, professionals, families and couples who choose now to live in our neighbourhood.We are a very diverse neighbourhood who has for the most part learned to live together peacefully and that has included individuals who use prostitution to support their addictions.

    We too have sought out help and support from social agencies including Ms. Middleton. However, we have been told clearly in the past that the issue is no worse than issues that would be experienced for example in Country Hills.
    We like you do not wish to move the issue to other communities but when you are told enough times that the issues of drugs and prostitution does not impact neighbourhoods to the extent that we have “claimed”….with documented numbers of calls for service, serious media attention as pretty substantial proof…..then you give up trying to find a social justice resolution and seek the only service who responds, Waterloo Region Police. The down side to working with police is that most agencies shun us and simply will not work with us.

    Cedar Hill has put their money where their mouth is however, and contnue to work side by side with Waterloo Region Police and the City of Kitchener to develop programs some of which have helped immensley such as the John School Diversion Progam and a Landlord Support program that works with Landlords and tenants to try to resolve issues that may or may not include drugs and prostitution.

    We feel very strongly that to label the women as either prostitutes or sex trade workers belies and in the case of sex trade workers, “nicely” covers the issue that bring them to the corner of King and Eby…..drugs!!!

    Most of us who have lived with the issues of street life are so far beyond “discussions” about legalization or any sort of moralizing and are pretty cynical about any one or any organization who could possibly have any impact whatsoever on the lives of the street women because there is little appetite to meet the women where they are….the corner of King and Eby late at night or early in the morning not just between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. It has been years and years of promises focusing on “root causes” re: prostitution not on the issue of drugs.

    Whatever the “root cause” of why women sell their bodies, the addiction must be addressed first and foremost for the women to have any chance whatsoever of trying to deal with the underlying reasons that brought them to the street as their LAST resort. They are feeding a habit, not their children, not to gain dollars for university and unfortunately not their past because their past, their present AND their future is taken from them by their addictions.
    Most of the people such as Melissa involved in well meaning “street ministries” do not live anywhere near King and Eby, never would conside moving to Cedar Hill or Downtown East and have literally no idea the impact on our communities. That impact has been well documented over the last twenty years and has cost Waterloo Region Police and the City of Kitchener plus other levels of government, homeowners, tenants, children and those seeking to change their lives untold millions and millions of dollars. The drug and prostitution issue has impacted zoning, property standards, schools and business. These two issues have certainly played a large role in ultimate deterioration of our downtown that has cost the taxpayer well over one hundred and fifty million dollars to reverse.
    The negative image of downtown east has cost land owners when they either try to rent apartments or upon sale of their properties. Housing prices have traditionally been substanitally less than similar houses in a neighbourhood two blocks in any direction from Cedar Hill. Many landlords over the years have let their properties deteriorate while housing people in unsafe, unsanitary and often dangerous situations. For the most part, all of that has changed. Landlords are substantially more responsible, housing prices and rents have increased and generally our little corner of the world is looking pretty spiffy.
    We need people to place real pressure on provincial and federal governments to provide serious dollars for SUPPORT HOUSING, drug rehabilitation and most importantly after care to help reduce recitivism that is the reality for most people so addicted to drugs such as crack or crystal meth. We need to seriously look at how we deal with people involved in organized crime, people who make money off of harming others through human trafficking and drug dealing.
    Thank you James for caring and providing this venue for discussion.

    • Thank you very much for sharing your experiences and those of you neighbours Karen.

      I have followed Cedar Hill’s struggle with this issue over the last 25 years or more. With this background, I knew that I was on firm ground and not simply jumping to conclusions. But it’s a voice that hasn’t been heard here yet and I appreciate you sharing how prostitution is the symptom of a much greater set of issues that need to be addressed.

      I would suggest that the biggest contributor is poverty but I agree that drug addictions are an immediate need for the women involved. The face of prostitution on the streets is the face of drug addiction–and that is what distinguishes them from other women even those who may be dressed provocatively.An integrated drug strategy is being developed for Waterloo Region. I hope it is part of the solution: http://www.preventingcrime.net/main.cfm?id=51A4A830-B6A7-8AA0-6B87BAD6181FD9EF

      Thank you for doing so much for so long to build a better community for your neighbours. I also hope that this blog can be a catalyst for change.

  4. Hey James,

    I too am a member of SlightlySauced, and regularly follow your posts via twitter. I’d also like to thank you for the mention in this post.

    Karen, I take issue with the claim that all prostitution is the result of drug addiction. I don’t believe that any group of people deserve to be painted with so broad a brush, regardless of the moral judgement that you seem so willing to heap upon them. As long as we’re talking moral judgements, I also feel that John School is a less than productive way to approach this problem. Sitting a man down and telling him that he is the cause of the suffering and abuse that these women have experienced simply because he had the audacity to purchase something that was clearly on sale is not likely to make him change his ways. As far as I am personally concerned, prostitution is only a problem if it results in physical or mental abuse. This is why I am in favour of a legalized and regulated prostitution industry. Unfortunately, it tends to be the moral crusaders among us who prevent this from becoming a reality.

    James, I understand that you feel as though we misrepresented you during our episode on this issue I’d like to invite you to participate in a follow up show, because I think that yours is a message that needs to be heard in this community. Please shoot me an email or dm me on twitter @jonathanmfritz if you’re interested.

  5. Thanks for your comments here Jonathan. And for the record, when I think of Slightly Sauced I think of you (in a good way).

    I think that it’s important to distinguish between between prostitution in general and women who sell sex on the streets. What Karen and I are talking about is a specific subset of prostitution. We’re not talking about high priced call girls or even women who see selling sex as a job. Street prostitutes are, as a general rule, are doing it to survive including buying drugs.

    I think John school is part of the solution to street prostitution. Without demand, there is nothing to sell–and it’s not as if they can’t find the same service in a number of other ways.

    I’ll consider your offer.

    • Unfortunately, I’ll have to disagree with you on this notion as well. When attempting to find a solution to the problem of prostitution, the women who sell sex on the street are exactly equal to high priced call girls and those who rely on prostitution as a legitimate way to pay their bills.

      The simple fact is that if we were to get past the problem that society seems to have with the notion of selling sex, the industry could be regulated and business would be conducted in a manner that is safe for all involved. Simply put, given the choice between a safe, clean, brothel, and a cold, dangerous street corner, girls and Johns alike would choose the former. This would put an end to street prostitution (or come at least as close as is possible), and ensure that those who do end up in the life are at least safe.

      A final note about John School – no program of its kind will ever reduce the demand for prostitution. We evolved to have sex, and some people, for reasons that I am sure are varied, have a hard time doing so in the confines of what you might consider a “normal” relationship.

      Why concern ourselves with the men who seek out prostitutes? Instead, more effort should be put into capturing and punishing the men who abuse prostitutes, and indeed, the other women in their lives.

      • Jonathon:

        I have learned not to enter a debate regarding prostitution because most people hold pretty tightly to their opinions.

        What I will debate is the right for people such as James and myself to live in neighbourhoods that are safe and secure. Living in a neighbourhood where there is street level prostitution also means that there is some kind of drug trade actively occuring in the same general vicinity.
        The combination of the illicit trade in drugs and sex does create a neighbourhood that looks, feels and is unsafe. Perhaps you Jonathon are lucky enough to live in a neighbourhood where this kind of acitivity does not occur

        I will also state clearly here that street level prostitution in our city is an activity almost exclusively tied to the drug trade. Check your “facts’ with our local police or a local crown attorney.
        There is big difference between street level and “high priced call girls”.

        I hope for the sake of street level women who use prostitution to support their drug habit our society never gets past its so called “problem with the notion of selling sex”. I could spend the next week talking about the impact the selling of sex has on our society that has absolutely nothing to do with me or anyone I work and live with being “moral crusaders”. However, I now realilze you Jonathon are not the least interested in learning anything rather espousing your opinions and judgments.

        I will also take you to task re: the john School. To my knowledge you are not involved in the diversion program at any level. Your level of judgement is a major reason why men who are experiencing difficulty in their lives will not come forward to talk about their issues. It is truly sad when these judgements are being made by other men. I personally have learned a great deal about how our society treats men at all levels and I truly hope that I have been able to make a difference in just one man’s life that has brought him some peace and acceptance.

        I am most fortunate to work with both men and women who have been involved in both the drug and prostitution “industry” and they would certainly take umbridge with what you have written. Theirs has been a long, long road back, a road that they must walk each and every day for the rest of their lives if they are to remain sober. I find what they have had to do to leave that life behind beyond courageous. “There but for the grace of God go I” as my dear mother used to say. I am proud to call these men and women, friend.

        I doubt what I have so say or anyone else for that matter will cause you to stop and consider people’s actual front line knowledge and experience on this issue Jonathon. Perhaps you won’t change your mind but you may be less judgemental.

        James, I wish you well in your quest to start a meaningful dialogue and if there is anything I can do to help you and your neighbourhood, I would be happy to sit down with you.

        Kind regards,

      • Thank you again Karen for rooting this discussion in the reality of the situation rather than a theoretical discussion.
        I’m hoping together we can make an impact to turn the tide. I may take you up on your offer at a later time.

      • Jonathan,
        Two quick points. It’s easy to discuss prostitution in theory. It’s different when it’s near your family’s home and affecting the health of east downtown.
        Secondly, even if you are right, I’m not willing to wait for a solution that if it ever comes will take years to possibly make a difference. I want something done now with what is possible now.

  6. My family has actually been looking at buying a house on the corner of Eby and Charles St because I want to be closer to where I can help with the situation. My street ministry is also much more than well meaning…. oftentimes we are the only people providing food, toiletries and contact with the world outside of government agencies.

    Unfortunately, there is no quick solution to prostitution, homelessness and drug use in the downtown core. Firstly, the people are concentrated in this area because it is the only area that has the services they need, secondly, there are always people who are going to choose to be homeless regardless of how much help they are given.

    Just like the Satan’s Choice motorcycle gang was able to work with their neighbors despite their obvious differences in choices of lifestyle and activities, I believe that it is possible to work together, provide your neighbors with love and security and slowly work towards change and acceptance.

    • Melissa,

      Your approach is definitely one part of addressing this complex problem. I’m glad to hear you’re considering putting yourself on the frontlines so that you can make a difference. If you make the move please let us know here and share your experiences.

      Your point about the location of services is a good one but it’s also a chicken and egg situation since I’m sure the services would say they are there to be close to potential clients and there would be resistance to moving any of them. But it’s worth asking the question if one area of the city have all the services these folks need and whether there is another model for delivering these services.

      And for the record, I don’t see a biker gangs as being role models for how diverse groups can share a neighbourhood.

  7. Hi Melissa:
    I live just up the street from where you are proposing to purchase a house for you and your family. I find it concerning that the reason you are moving to the Eby and Charles area is because of your interest in street level prostitution and your desire to work with this population. I am not sure if you realize how many services are here in the downtown doing exactly what you say you are doing and wish to continue to do more regularly. It is entirely niave to think you are the “only one”. I wonder whether you seriously understand the needs of an addict and how that need compels them to do some very bad things. Most of the crime….I have heard as high at 94% of all crime committed in the Region is as a result of drugs. Some of those crimes range from break and enters, car theft, purse snatching, and sometimes assault. If the women you are proposing to service “work” at King and Eby, why would you think your home would not be a “target”? Why would you think my neighbourhood would welcome one more “service” in a neighbourhood already saturated with services?
    There are lots of communities, in fact most communities, that need support and help. I worked in one this summer that was a complete “desert” when it came to services, food access, supports yet the needs very high.
    You would certainly be welcome in our neighbourhood but not if you plan to minister to the women on the street. Sorry we have had more than our fair share of issues with drugs and prostitution; we have worked extremely hard to deal with those issues and we are not interested in witnessing a return of those problems.

    • Thanks again for the dose of reality Karen!

      I think the point that you make that there are areas in other parts of Kitchener–indeed Waterloo Region–where there are gaps in services that need to be addressed. They may not have prostitutes on their streets but they certainly have challenges that need to be addressed if they are to be vibrant neighbourhoods and where the residents (especially kids) could use supports to reach their potential and achieve greater success in their lives.

  8. Karen,

    So let me get this straight… you want to help the prostitutes get out of the life and off of the streets, yet you’re urging somebody who seems genuinely interested in pursuing these same goals not to do the same? What exactly is your game here? I don’t want to pick fights but you’ve got me confused.

  9. I can well understand and appreciate your confusion Jonathon. Wish sometimes this was a game because then I could shut the game down with no one being hurt….but I am sure that is not what your mean by asking me what my “game is here”.

    I am not interested in the issues of prostitution. Far too complex an issue and one that would seem to elicit some real anger on the part of what I call armchair critics.

    I am interested in making certain our downtown communities can live in safe and secure communities free from the very real threats that come from drug and prostitution activies occuring where we live, work, shop, play and educate. While I do not necessarily agree with moving these issues from community to community, our little group has worked extremely hard to engage all kinds of help over the years including from enforcement and social agencies.

    We have even tried to work with the women to help and support them but found that was impossible when you live in the area of the problem because of the fact that street prostituition in Kitchener’s downtown is all about drugs. It would take me too long and frankly not convinced most people are interested in what we have learned to adequately give you examples, research and conclusions.

    I would hate to see someone think they are helping and have something terrible happen to them or their home through the niave wish to help. In our experience, where the street level women are, the drugs, johns, male addicts, pimps are there also.

    Unless and until, Waterloo Region comes out with a drug strategy, then finds the funding which is what has been promised for over 15 years, we are very limited in what we can do.

    We have had all of these issues to deal with for years plus the fall out of the negative perception of our neighbourhood. That fall out has included school closures, businesses moving or going out of business, houses left to deteriorate, properties destroyed, fires, violence, landlords giving up and renting to anyone including drug dealers, the list goes on.

    Here is a recent story that you could reseach: read the fully story about Mr. Sean Butler who was just sentenced this past week for an incredilbly violent incident involving a young woman. That man lived across the street from me for years and created such havoc that when I saw that he had moved two years ago into my neighbourhood again, I immediately called police because I knew this could bring nothing but harm. Sure enough it did and badly. This is not his first go around. Look at his history. One of the most frightening people I have ever met. I would not like to see Melissa and her family experience a person such as this and she will.

    This is but one story.

    Some of us remain conflicted about how do we help and support while ensuring a safe and secure community while the majority do not care and want the problems moved. At least some of us continue to try to help through several venues including the john School.

    Does this help Jonathon?

  10. Thanks James. Appreciate your comments very much. I would be more than upset if Melissa and her family were injured in any way because their desire to “minister” outweighted the reality. I would take that quite personally.

    I have a gentleman who works with me at our john School who tells about what it is like to be an addict, a pimp, a drug enforcer, a drug pusher all rolled into one person. He is so very sorry for the hell he put our community through and for the often unbearable anxiety my husband and I went through for fear for our children, ourselves, our tenants, our neighbours and our friends. Today and for the last 11 years, I am proud to call him my friend.

    I also have several women who used prostitution to support their addictions who also work with me at our john School who fully and intensly support not only the school but the number of initiatives that I have been involved in to try to wake people up to work together to bring about changes but the lack of real understanding of the particular drugs controlling the women and the fact that I will only work on these initiatives if police are involved has meant that most agencies with not work with us. I also of course will not agree to safe houses, drop ins etc being established anywhere near downtown because experience in other cities states they become a place for drug pushers

    I am so proud of these women and what they have accomplished with so little chance for success yet against all odds they have succeeded. Not sure I would have..

    Proud to call the women friends!!

    We have a wonderful diversion program created by both my group and a young very bright female police officer, all on paper that has not seen the light of day nor will it because it means working with police as first responders. The other issue of course is no funding for this specific issue of women I think because the success rate is so very low. When working with the johns we work one man at a time and that is our motto for our proposed diversion program….one woman at a time. That attitude does not go down well with our different levels of government who are interested in our tax dollars helping the most amount of people. When I see the incredible angst around the issues of prostitution then when the reality of how severe the issues are trying to help women who use drugs to support their addictions, I do somewhat understand. However, when you calculate that during the relatively short course of either of their lives or their addictions, they cost the taxpayer almost two million dollars in services including enforcement, courts, medical treatement etc…not including their children…then some of us keep wondering who is doing the math?

    Anyway, I going back to making homemade spaghetti sauce. Take care James.

    • Thanks for all of your work Karen! I hope that some renewed attention to these issues will help to lead to new breakthroughs for the individuals struggling with addictions and all of east end downtown including the Cedar Hill neighbourhood.

  11. Karen,

    Thanks for clarifying your concerns. I spent a little bit of time researching the Sean Butler case, and have compiled a list of links pertaining to the case for anybody who is interested here: http://bitly.com/qKc2BX

    I apologize for my curt tone. When I first read your comment, I was confused as to your motivation, but I now understand that you are concerned for the safety of Melissa and other outreach workers.

    • Thanks for sharing this list of links Jonathan! I think that your research helps to reinforce the reality of the situation and why Karen and her neighbours have worked so long to address the problems related to prostitution. I suspect you’re beginning to understand why I may be concerned to find prostitution near my east downtown neighbourhood and that was before my neighbours woke up recently to blood covered sidewalks (see related post).

    • Thank you Jonothan. Thank you for the links. Prior to this case, Mr. (?) Butler was involved with a lovely young woman in Cambridge who owned a successful women’s boutique who ended up in a federal pen for over five years (if memory serves me correctly) because she got caught dealing crack. Guess who her “boyfriend” was? Mr. Sean Butler.

      When Mr. Butler left my little neighbourhood, he went to London and I followed his career there through the police and crown attorneys.

      The article claims this is Mr. Butler’s first conviction of sexual assualt. I used to see what happened to women atrracted to him regularly, but he is so frightening no one would lay charges. The young woman involved in this most recent case has had to move out of Kitchener and change herself physically in order to feel safe from him.

      This past week, there was another case where a man was sentenced for some really violent break and enters as a result of his addictions. I think there may have been another case also last week where an addict was convicted again because of drugs. Serious issues needing serious but multifaceted approaches to rehab.

      These issues are so very complicated but without any kind of rehab in the Region particularly rehab geared to women, with no comprehensive drug policies/strategies, with the issues of whether prostitution should be legalized being so hotly debated, the street women get lost, Outreach workers (traditionally women) are afraid to go where the women are in the evenings and at night, yet refuse to work with police (who have offered many times to help) which is what happens in other cities such as Toronto, Hamilton and Vancouver. In other cities, police are seen as partners, not adversaries.
      Thank you again Jonothan.

  12. James,

    I do understand your worry when it comes to prostitution in your neighbourhood. I’ve come to recognize that it’s about all of the things that prostitution implies, and not necessarily about the girls themselves, a viewpoint that we did not adequately address in our podcast about the issue.

    Aside from the perceived damage to property value that the sale of sex causes, the actual issue of prostitution appears to be no more than an indicator of actual danger and violence behind the scenes. To this end, I’ll continue to stand by my opinion that the practice should be legalized, if only to ensure the protection of girls that happen to find themselves in that position.

    In addition, I’ll be doing some more research into the rehabilitation facilities that exist (or do not exist) in our community. It seems to me that Karen has hit the nail on the head in saying that drug policies need to be on the agenda for the Region. If there are addicts who can’t get the help that they need, then it’s no wonder that there’s a thriving drug trade that brings violence into our neighbourhoods.

    Karen, can you comment more on outreach workers not wanting to pair up with the police? That seems like a no-brainer to me, so it must be a more complicated issue than what you managed to sum up in your above post.

    • Opps, you know what I continually forget about? Sexually transmitted diseases. The number of stories that I have listened to from both the johns and the women who do not use condoms is astounding. I do not know a woman who uses prostitution who does not have a sexually transmitted disease. Most I know have Hep C…now isn’t that a “gift” to bring home? Ask your local dentist how he/she likes treating someone with Hep C or a doctor, hospital. For every layer one takes off the onion there is another underneath.

      Needles, dirty condoms ( when they are used) in your school playground, forgot all about that part. I must be tired. Just a few more little items to think about.

      • I’m glad to see such a great exchange of information between both of you here. Karen, you’re even opening my eyes. I hope that there is a way to find a collaborative approach that involves the police and social service agencies. They sit around the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council together and so something should be possible. I expect the police have some role in the gang outreach program that I mention as a model and it would deal with many of the same issues.

        Karen, you might call the Crime Prevention Council to see what the status is of the integrated drug strategy for Waterloo Region and if resources have been or will be dedicated to implement it.

  13. Hi Jonathon:
    It isn’t really that complex. People who have been trained as social workers here in KW would appear to continue to see police as the enemy. There is an assumption that all police treat the women badlyand the organizations associated with S.W.A.N. are highly reluctant to even allow police at meetings much less talk about working with them. The reason they say is that the girls don’t trust the police yet the police are usually first responders and in this Region have advocated on behalf of the women on the street. However, police have no blindfolds on and know the facts about what it is like for everyone involved in this mess, the women, the dealers, the community and enforcement. In other cities, the police have set up projects that actually pair outreach workers including nurses, mental health outreach, youth with police to ride along in marked vehicles in areas known to have issues with drugs and prostitution. The police do a remarkable job here is the region re: community outreach. I have worked with them for years on projects. Did one this summer at our local community centre.

    Jonathon, the girls themselves ARE an issue. They have been involved in assaults….case several years ago on Eby Street that was extremely violent involving the women as the perpetrators. I personally have witnessed some pretty ugly and violent issues with the women. Women are often arrested for assault, theft, B & E’s rather than for prostitution.

    They will jump in your car as you pull out of your driveway, wait at a red light, pick up your kids from school, sitting in a parking lot. They are a problem. Set up a john to be assaulted, have his wallet stolen, beaten up, knifed, the list goes on.

    Often the violence spills from a crack house when drugs are purchased and used and the women are very much a part of that culture. The johns come into neighbourhoods where they know the girls will be. They will cruise residential streets and will harass anyone who looks like they may be female even if they a pushing a baby carriage with other children with them. In the good old days, grade 7/8 boys used to harass female neighbours because of the negative perception of our area. Any woman was a target. We spent an inordinate amount of time at middle and high schools to stop this type of activity from occuring.

    I have just received an email from a friend who is presently visiting relatives in her home country New Zealand where prostitution is legal. Sorry to burst the bubble but it has not helped street level prostitution at all. In fact a whole new industry has grown up around now trying to curb the “anti-social” behavour that has exploded since New Zealand legalized prostitution. My friend is a lawyer who has been my partner in our association here in Cedar Hill for years. She is so shocked at what she is witnessing that she wrote the Mayor of the city where she is staying to express her concern.

    You really need to do your research Jonathon. Check out work being done at Simon Fraser Univeristy on the issues of prostitution, check out New Zealand, Australia etc.

    Ask yourself about where organized crime fits into this issue? Will legalizing prostution protect the women from organized crime? How does legalization impact child prostitution, child porn etc.?

    This is not simple stuff and there is no magic bullet including legalization.

    I do not know what the answer is. I do not believe however, that legalization will help the women who use prostitution to support their habit. What I hear advocates say is that street level prostitution accounts for less than 20% of all prostitution and I am never sure what that stat means. Does it mean this sector is not worth building a law to protect? Not sure about that but my experience has said that what Mr. Alan Young has been advocating for is prostituion at a much higher level that the street. Take a look at how this got to the Ontario courts in the first place. I have asked Mr. Young about street level and he ponitificates about now the “girls” can go inside. Wow, that is a clear understanding of the issues now isn’t it? With what money, what stability? I always come away with the sense that this specific population is a throw away even for those who would advocate for legalization.

    Sleep well Jonathon.

  14. I walk King St E nearly every day and have been approached/gestured by some of these women. It sickens me to see the obvious suffering behind it. So have we reached a conclusion in this debate about whether there is an appropriate “in the moment” response other than polite ignorance?

    • The police have asked that we call 519-653-7700 when we see a woman working as a prostitute on the street. Ask for dispatch.

      They will respond to check it out and would like the information to assist their efforts to address this issue.

      • After dealing with this for so many years, I have to agree with James. The police are trying to work with the agencies here but with little or no results.
        In Cambridge, Cambridge Shelter works well with the police service. It has been a few years since I have been heavily involved with the issue of street prostitution so I may be a bit off with my facts.

        My understanding is that their outreach workers can visit the women when they are arrested and placed in custody. Cambridge believes that drugs such as crack and crystal meth do not leave much of an opening for women to make a decision to change their lives. However, it you can work with them once they are convicted and sober, there is a much greater likelihood of successfully convincing the women to enter serious rehab with the promise of almost one on one supports once they leave. The problem with not helping the women once they exit either jail or
        rehab is they will return to the only community they know…the one where they were in trouble.
        There they are immediate targets for dealers particularly other female dealers who will do whatever they need to re-addict them. Remember, other addicts need to sell drugs in order to pay for their drugs. Vicious cycle

        There are some counsellors here who completely disagree with moving the women to another community but when talking to women who have managed to stay clean for an extended amount of time, it was the only way they were able stay sober.

        This is a life long addiction, they never truly recover and it is a daily decision to remain sober. My understanding is that the pull from the harder drugs including alcohol is almost overwhelming.

        One of my friends called me last week to tell me about a fairly serious medical issue that she was given morphine and another drug to lessen the pain. At the end of approximately a month of dealing with this issue, she returned the drugs to her doctor. She endured the pain rather than take the chance of readdicting herself. Wow..again, not sure I would have that much committment to my sobriety. It is humbling to listen to these stories.


      • Thanks for elaborating on why we need to address drug addiction to address the problem of prostitution It is a significant reason why I recognize that an enforcement approach alone isn’t a solution.

        I didn’t say so earlier but thank you as well for your work with the “John school” since sex is only for sale on the streets to meet a demand. Addressing the demand is another element towards a solution.

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