Even though it’s an icy night in Edmonton, Kelly takes a small sip of a bright green Slurpie she has clutched in her hands.
Kelly is homeless, and has been living on the streets of Edmonton working as a prostitute since her parents kicked her out of the house almost a year ago. Kelly wouldn’t say where home was, but she spoke of it with the sad type of fondness as a little girl who had lost her favorite doll might.
“There’s no hookers where I come from,” she added, taking a sip of her Slurpie.
When asked how she ended up getting into sex work, she tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear and shrugged.
“Oh boy…” She paused for a moment to stare out the car window. The glitter dusting her eyelids sparkled under the orange glare of a lonely streetlamp. She sighed and looked away. The sparkle was gone.
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“We’re out here doing the job that nobody else wants to do. Nobody just up and decides to be a hooker one day.”
“I guess somebody’s gotta do it,” she finally answered. “We’re out here doing the job that nobody else wants to do. Nobody just up and decides to be a hooker one day.”
Many girls seemed embarrassed or ashamed sharing their story. Kelly did not – she spoke as if she were an old Hollywood actress crying out for a long-lost someone to come and save her.
“We all had hopes and dreams,” she said softly. “Things didn’t pan out, so we’re out here. Every girl has a sad story to tell.”
“It’s cold out there,” Kelly said, as she huddled further into her baggy hoodie.
Kelly said she feels safe enough on the streets because police are constantly circulating through the area. She said she’s sure “it wouldn’t be more than a minute wait” if she had to call for help. But after hearing what goes on in the neighborhood she frequents, even a minute wait might be too late.
She said fights often break out between competing sex workers and drug dealers over “who owns” the street corners. She’s heard gunshots fired into the still night air long after the bars close. She’s been the victim of unwarranted cruelty from young men driving by, drunk and thinking it’s funny to scream profanities at her and whip fistfuls of pennies at her as they whiz by.
“I don’t see why people have to make things worse for us.” Kelly seemed to sink further into her hoodie as she stared sadly at the ground. “We’re doing this job because we’re in a situation that’s crappy in our lives.”
While Kelly knows the life she’s living is less than ideal, she is hopeful.
“I’ll be home for Christmas. You guys won’t see me out here too much longer.”