Pubdate: Sun, 18 Oct 2009
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Jon Ferry


It's Spread From Skid Row And Is Now Found In The 'Burbs

It was around 11:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving, and Maple Ridge resident
Michelle Rainey was going to her local gym when she saw a woman in her
40s she knows as Elaine soliciting on 225th Street.

Elaine looked haggard, Rainey told me. Her hair was a mess, she was
wearing a filthy white tracksuit and needed $25 to pay a crack debt.

Rainey went over to talk to her and gave her $75, on condition she
took the day off and gave herself and the community a break.

"I made her promise that she wouldn't be on that walk for that day,"
said Rainey, 38, who herself suffers from Crohn's disease.

"I made her promise me that she would get a meal and a bath and wash
her clothes."

Yes, despite what many of us who live in the 'burbs want to believe,
the Downtown Eastside is far from the only Metro Vancouver
neighbourhood plagued by homelessness, drug addiction and street

Rainey knows this first-hand. Three years ago, she and her husband
left Gastown, where they lived in an apartment opposite a soup
kitchen, and bought a home in Haney in the heart of Maple Ridge. It
was a world away from offices of the Downtown Eastside where Rainey --
the Marc Emery associate who in July was sentenced in Seattle to two
years' probation for conspiracy to manufacture marijuana -- worked as
vice-president of the B.C. Marijuana Party.

Or so they thought.

They left downtown Vancouver because they wanted a quiet, safe and
affordable place to live, Rainey said. But a year-and-a-half ago,
conditions in Haney started to deteriorate as marginalized people
moved in. And now, when Rainey goes for her daily workout, hookers
openly ply their trade on her street, and johns slow their vehicles to
leer at her.

"It's an uncomfortable feeling," she says.

Seniors and others in the area are also concerned. And recently the
police responded by arresting 15 sex-trade workers. The police
crackdown, however, was criticized by a Maple Ridge News opinion
piece, which said "arresting sex-trade workers only pushes them into
hiding, making it more difficult to help them, and putting them at
greater risk of harm."

Rainey wrote a letter to the newspaper, saying that "victimizing and
jailing addicted sex-trade workers is not a compassionate solution."

Indeed, she told me, it saddens her deeply that with the Salvation
Army and various churches close by, no one seems to be reaching out to
addicted and abandoned women such as Elaine.

Rainey also said she agrees with three Ontario women who have gone to
court to challenge provisions in Canada's prostitution laws, arguing
they contribute to the violence sex-trade workers face.

Myself, I think street prostitution is a scourge and it's one that
requires a carrot-and-stick approach. Sure, we need to show compassion
by helping vulnerable women such as Elaine kick the drug addiction
that's destroying them. But we also must come down hard on those
drug-dealers, johns and prostitutes who destroy an entire community.
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