A few weeks ago, I was reading in the park two blocks away from my house and a knife fight broke out. I was reading a book and chatting on and off with a couple of older prostitutes and a few crack dealers when all of a sudden there’s a two foot blade flashing around about ten feet away from me. Nobody was too surprised and, after the business was concluded, everybody went back to talking as though nothing had happened.
Then, just last week, I was walking home past the working girls about a block away from my house. Generally the women who work the stroll in my immediate neighbourhood are older and drug-addicted. Consequently, I was a little shocked when I ran into a fresh-faced kid (maybe fifteen or sixteen years old?) working on this stroll. It’s not that fifteen year old kids are uncommon in prostitution (they’re actually quite common) it’s just that one doesn’t usually find them in low-track neighbourhoods — they work the high-track strolls, or the kiddie strolls. There were several men standing across the street watching the kid and there was another man leaning on the wall behind her (one of them was probably her pimp, there’s no way a girl like that is being left unattended in a neighbourhood like mine).
Finally, the other night I was walking to work and a woman walked out of the alley by my house… and she wasn’t wearing any pants. It was around 9:30pm. She didn’t seem to think it was a big deal.
This is the neighbourhood in which I live. It has the wonderful privilege of being the poorest postal code in Canada. It also has the highest concentration of people living with HIV/AIDs in all of the Western world. It is the home of more than 5000 active needle drug users (this stat excludes the number of users who take drugs through other means) and surveys show that more than 50% of the people who live here have mental health issues.
I live here because I think that this is where the people of God should be rooted. Not to say that we should not also be in other neighbourhoods, it’s just that our presence in those neighbourhoods should exist as branches from our roots in the groaning places of the world.