Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Booms Housing Crisis Leading Women into Survival Sex Trade

Housing woes lead to sex trade: advocate
June 18, 2007

Mary Jane St. Savard checks Marvin Ross's hair at their tent behind the Bissell Centre on 96st and 105 ave. A large group of people have set up tents on the empty field after police and park rangers moved them off various other locations.

Skyrocketing rents are forcing some women into the "survival sex trade," warns one advocate for prostitutes.
"It's a sad situation, but it's reality," said Carol-Lynn Strachan.

She said she's seeing women, who would otherwise not turn tricks on city streets, selling their bodies part time to supplement their income to cover monthly expenses.
"That's what they call the survival sex trade," said Strachan.

She doesn't have a problem with people who choose prostitution willingly. However, she said being forced into the trade because of increasing living expenses is simply wrong.
"With rent increases, with pregnant or single mothers out there, that's when I have a problem."

She said continued rental increases are also putting financial strains on many full-time prostitutes. She knows of five prostitutes living in one apartment.


However, one upside to rental increases for people in her industry, according to Strachan, is the added protection prostitutes gain from the growing homeless population.

She said once prostitutes befriend people living on the streets, those homeless people are more likely to look out for the prostitutes. Currently, many of those dispossessed have set up a tent town on government-owned property located behind the west Bissell Centre building, not far from their previous town. Last week, Bissell staff had to evict about 20 homeless campers from the east Bissell Centre building parking lot on 10527-96 Street.
Capital Health officials told Bissell staff the makeshift parking lot campground required toilets, running water, waste water disposal and garbage bins to remain in operation.
Shelley Williams, Bissell Centre executive director, said telling the tent dwellers to leave was difficult, but all obliged and, since they basically just crossed the street, didn't have far to move.


Since their relocation, Williams hasn't heard any of the campers talk about possible eviction from their current location.
However, even if they are stably positioned for a while, she doesn't believe shantytowns are enough to solve Edmonton's homelessness problem.
"The only long term resolution is permanent housing … with support for people requiring support."
Arley Hanna is one of those residents living behind the west Bissell Centre building.
Even if he had more financial support, he doesn't think many property owners would rent to him because he appears homeless.
"Just look at me — the rugged look."
Hanna has been homeless for six months and fighting pneumonia for 10 months. He said living outside makes it difficult to get better.
"You wake up angry and feeling sick … anxiety and depression."

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