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Rideau Street, downtown Ottawa…


We didn’t get her name:  it wasn’t offered and it was too early to ask.  Maybe she was seventeen, but the hard life on the streets made her look older.

Her gnarled and twisted hair matched the attitude she portrayed in her ‘survival mode’- you can’t show weakness on the streets.  Once she had the ‘look’, but it really was too costly to maintain.  Now she managed with a few mismatched pieces of clothing from the bin.  Dirty and ragged, she survived within her small circle of ‘friends’ that looked after her – for a price.

I looked again and my heart was broken.  Whose daughter was this?  Could this be my neighbour’s little girl?  She had to grow up too fast, too soon.  She should be enjoying her teen years:  sleepovers at her friends place, painting nails and doing hair do’s, giggling, pizza and movies with her small group of friends, long talks late at night with mom, shopping for that special prom dress, planning for the future, getting ready to leave the nest and spread her wings…

This wasn’t even on the radar.  Maybe it never was.  Instead there is the ‘exchange’ of  services to get what she needs – food, shelter, drugs.  Anything to deaden the pain.

Something broke somewhere.  Maybe it’s sexual abuse or an alcoholic dad who vented too many times.  Maybe a new ‘dad’ in a blended family that didn’t work out.  Too many foster homes, too many broken promises, too much pain…

Her circle of  ‘friends’ is small.  Who will reach out to her?  Dealers looking for a  ‘runner’?  Pimps – men who would use her and then treat her like an empty styrofoam cup – a commodity to discard when no longer useful.

Last week something happened. An outreach teams made a connection and another dimension has been added to the picture.  The beginning of an intervention of love and mercy into a darkened world.  It’s a dawning of a new day.

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