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Faces of Toronto: Jenny

This is Jenny. She's 20 years old. I found her while taking the long way home through Kensington Market. It was her ripped stockings that initially caught my attention.

Jenny has lived on the streets on and off for the last five years. A young beautiful girl, she was quickly welcomed into a life of sex and drugs. Her first boyfriend took her to Montreal and introduced her to heroin. They returned to Toronto and Jenny earned money working for an escort agency.

At the escort agency, she was well looked after. The man in charge of the agency was very respectful. If there was someone that she didn't feel comfortable around, he wouldn't send her out on the call.

I found Jenny sitting on some steps with a friend. I talked to both of them and learned that her friend has been clean for over a year and is now off the streets. But Jenny remains. She sleeps anywhere.

"I know it sounds fucked up", she confessed "but sometimes I sleep under a bridge." Her friend, likely noticing my concern, added "I have been on the streets long enough to know that I can't help people make changes. They must do it for themselves."

Other than her parent's divorce, Jenny didn't mention any specific event that sent her to the streets. She mentioned that her mother had briefly gone on welfare but worked hard, studied and managed to land a job with a law firm. She recently purchased a condo where she lives with Jenny's younger sister. I could tell that Jenny is very proud of her mother's accomplishments.

Her younger sister is pregnant which means Jenny will soon be an aunt. Recently, she went to visit her family for a few days but has since returned to the streets. She told me that her mother has a hard time understanding her choices. Jenny's father has moved to another country and she maintains some occasional contact with him.

Jenny participates in a methadone program. She's trying to resolve her heroin addiction and has stopped the escort work but she still doesn't appear to have a clear plan. Her current boyfriend takes care of her and buys her food but he's not without his own set of problems. He didn't approve of the escort work so now she squeegies instead. She seems unsure of where they're going with the relationship.

At the end of our talk it was time for Jenny to go and meet her friends in the park. She had a six pack of beer and they were waiting for it.


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