Pubdate: Tue, 12 Jun 2001
Source: Kitchener-Waterloo Record (CN ON)
Copyright: Kitchener-Waterloo Record 2001
Author: Jeff Outhit


KITCHENER -- Pretty Woman she is not. Kitchener's average streetwalking 
prostitute is a 33-year-old crack addict who sells sex to feed the habit 
she will not or cannot break, a new study says.

She lives within two blocks of King and Cedar streets because that's where 
the drugs are, but is always on the move, in and out of jail.

She uses condoms less than half the time and is exposed to a wide range of 
diseases and safety risks.

She's not aware of programs and services to help her and is intensely 
distrustful of  authority figures like police and social workers.

It's estimated there may be up to 35 such women (or as few as 15) working 
Kitchener streets from time to time.

And it's going to take a major effort by a number of social agencies over a 
long period to help pull them out of their grim lifestyles.

"These women have complex problems," said prostitution researcher Karen 

"These are women society is intent on ignoring."

The study prepared by Hancock was based on interviews with 11 current and 
former street hookers, from among more than 20 who were contacted by a 
committee of residents and social workers.

It was presented last night to city council, which helped foot the $15,000 
bill after several neighbourhoods were plagued by street-level prostitution.

Part of the study was paid for by men who are attending john school, an 
educational program for men convicted of soliciting prostitution that also 
allows them to avoid a jail sentence.

The study, entitled Between a Rock and a Hard Place, suggests there is no 
quick fix to street prostitution.

It found that most women fell into it not by plan, but because they were 
frantic to pay for their drugs or faced a housing crisis caused by their 
drug use.

Drugs came first, then prostitution.

"These women are addicted to crack cocaine and work in the sex trade to 
finance their habit; they are not prostitutes who become addicted to 
drugs," the study claims.

It recommends that outreach services be set up to target street hookers at 
least four nights a week, providing everything from information to condoms 
and needles.

Social agencies need to co-ordinate their efforts to get women the help 
they need when  they need it.

The community is advised to establish a safe place for crack-addicted 
women. They need access to long-term, affordable housing outside the 
downtown core.

And it's critical to improve after-care services for prostitutes who want 
to overcome their addictions.

Otherwise, rehabilitation efforts will fail and they will return to selling 
sex for drugs.

The city is to review the findings over the summer to determine what more 
can be done by city government and other social agencies to tackle street 

"There's a lot more that needs to be done," said Coun. Berry Vrbanovic. 
"There is a role for us to play."

The study did not address other aspects of the sex trade, including body 
rub parlours, escort services and strip clubs. And no research was done 
outside Kitchener.

But Hancock said the women who sell themselves in Kitchener are also known 
to work the streets in Waterloo and Cambridge.
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