Forest Lawn ‘hooker stroll’ a source of concern for area residents

Women of the sex trade spend long hours high on drugs and walking corners along “hooker avenue” in Calgary’s Forest Lawn community hoping to be picked up by a “john.”

The hooker stroll has become a feature of the southeast neighbourhood, to the frustration of area residents.

According to the sextradealberta.com, sex workers typically work in—or close to—a city’s downtown core, away from people’s homes.

But since downtown Calgary boomed during the oil price run-up seven years ago, the women have migrated to more quiet areas such as Forest Lawn.

One southeast resident, who spoke on the condition she not be identified, said on a typical day she sees four to five different women walking the corners at 20th Avenue and 50th Street S.E.

She said she has lived in the area for approximately 10 years. As a teen, she would see women walking along 19th Avenue S.E. but recently she has noticed many of the women have migrated to 20th Avenue.

“There’s one lady on the same corner every day,” she said.

“I see her get dropped off and picked up five, maybe eight times day

“I think she is there because it’s a well-populated area of working men.”

According to a current sex trade worker, who refused to be identified by name, there is a “hooker stroll” near 50th Street S.E and 20th Avenue S.E

This newer stroll is near the Town and Country Inn and is known as the ‘T&C stroll.”

“I’ve been working these streets for last 14 years—but the last five years I’ve really noticed more women working here,” said the worker.

According to the worker, the trade is dangerous.

Women will fight over customers and can be very territorial, especially if they’ve made money from that corner or alleyway before.

“Sometimes the drugs get the best of us,” she said.

“We can’t really help how we act.”

The sex worker acknowledged that she has been in trouble with the police herself, over drugs.

She said officers often patrol the area, not to hand out tickets or arrest anyone but to ensure the women are safe.

“The johns can be mean.

“I have been beaten and raped but it comes with the trade, not much I can do about it.”

The worker appreciates the safe feeling of having officers around. However, the police presence can affect the amount of money she makes.

Another sex trade worker, who moved to Calgary from Vancouver in hopes of making a better living, said the business is similar in the two cities.

“There are drugs, sex, and abusive men. At this point it’s all the same to me,” she said.

She acknowledged that she can’t see her life any other way, and wouldn’t change it.

“Three of my favourite things (are) sex, drugs and money,” she said.

Another resident of the “stroll” area volunteers her time to clean up the street as much as she can.

She feels that the women who work there deserve safety as much as anyone else and that’s why she cleans up the used needles, tissues and condoms that accumulate.

“I try not to interact with the women because I don’t want anything to do with them,” said the resident. “I just want to know they are safe and the community is safe.”

She said she has encountered many different types of women on the stroll.

Some are there strictly to make a living, while others are there because they are suffering from addictions.

“It’s sad when you see a lady get in a car and you know they’re only getting in because they are about to get their fix of crack or heroin.”

Both residents agreed that the area is like walking through a documentary on drug addicts.

“It’s a scary place to be. Men offer you drugs to get in the car, women yell at you to find your own place and all you can do is run away and not look back,” said the 10-year resident of the area.

“I try to stay clear of the area now, but sometimes a reminder of how great my life is compared to others is needed.”

Sextradealberta.com quotes Amanda Baxter, the program co-ordinator at Shift Calgary, as saying: “Nowadays, I would say about 10 per cent of sex work is what you see on the street and 90 per cent is what goes on indoors.”

The long-time Calgary sex worker said the only reason women have resorted to online is because it is classed as escorting, making it legal.

“Police can’t give an escort a ticket or arrest their john.

“Out here on the streets cops get creative with ways to get us off the street,” she said. “Sometimes it’s to protect us and other times it’s to stop the sex trade.

“I like sex, drugs and money. This is how I like getting what I want.”

Many women of the sex trade work along the T&C stroll – the Town and Country Inn pictured behind – in the neighbourhood of Forest Lawn in Calgary. The T&C stroll is just one area of the city where the sex trade remains active. (Photo by Rebecca Hardcastle/The Press)

 

About Courtney Lovgren 3 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Courtney Lovgren worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2017-18 academic year.

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