She’s standing on the corner of Coburg and Paddock street in Waterloo Village. Her back to the traffic. Her long shinny hair noticeable from a block away. As we get close, I can tell that although her expression is one of resignation, her eyes are full of fear. She doesn’t speak, she doesn’t utter a sound.
Everyone knows why she’s there. Her black knee-high boots hiked up like poster boards. There is no makeup on her face, the bruise over her eye hasn’t even been concealed. She clutches her purse like a security blanket. It’s beginning to wear out at the seams.
The person I’m doing street outreach with knows her and tells her to come by. A little nod, they hug, but still no sound comes those cracked lips.
Across the street two young men – lean with their shirts off, prancing like the stallions they think they are – start hurling abuse. They call out her name. They want a response, a reaction. They joke about hitting her around. She shifts, disguises slight trembling, and keeps looking down the street.
It’s 2pm. 10 minutes later, when we loop back around that corner, she is gone. I’m told that it never takes long for a girl to get picked up. I’m scared for her.
2 months ago the some organizations in the Waterloo Village area of the city came together to begin a street outreach program. They realized that there were people on the streets that could be in need of their services, but who never make it to their doors. So they got yellow vests and organized 2 weekly shifts to tour the neighbourhood. We go out 2 by 2 and as we walk around talking to people on the street we share the kind of services that are offered and make referrals when necessary. It’s also a great opportunity for us service-providers to get to know each other better and draw on each other’s resources. This “observation” shows us a picture of the hurt and the need in our city, but also highlights why we need to be doing this.
By Jasmine Chandra