way house. I gave him my sandals. He was
Buick of Hope
hungry. I gave him a bag of food and I sent
him on his way.”
It’s like Matthew 25:35 (I was hungry…
and you fed me) is being read out loud.
Late into every Thursday night Jan drives
slowly down Toronto streets, looking for the
girls. Her Buick is hospital, confessional. It
is Santa’s sleigh with outreach bags stitched
from beautiful fabric piled on her car floor.
They are stuffed with Kleenex, wipes, candy,
hand sanitizer, a condom and Jan’s business
card. Some girls ask for a bag in their favourite colour, or to match their outfit.
Jan’s car is also a laser beam that
quickly finds the girls and women I slowly
begin to see, half in the shadows, emerging,
dressed to sell.
“Most of my relationship building is
when they are not working. This is ‘Hi, how
are you? We care about you,’” explains Jan.
“They’re my friends, we hang out. We laugh,
we pray, we tell dirty jokes. Honestly, when I
go to regular church I have a hard time. I like
that they are real. I want to be real.”
This does feel pretty real.
We drive by Regent Park and pull over
to speak to Sarah*, clearly glad to see Jan,
but with little time to talk.
“I’ve gotta work. Bye, Jan. I love you,”
she says warmly and pulls away from the
window. It’s a very matter-of-fact meet and
greet, as if we were chatting by a water cooler and Sarah’s meeting was about to begin.
This is not the Toronto I love. It is painful, dark, wrenching.
And Then Pain Fills the Car
Cindy* is standing with a crowd of men
on a dark stretch of George Street. When
she recognizes Jan, she comes over immediately and leans into the window.
She wears what seems to be a housedress
that is too big. A stuffed lion peeks out
of her backpack as if it is a child she is Ph