At-risk youth lingering by nightly food truck, a common place for prostitutes

photo illustration by Audrey McKinnon

For the past month, at-risk youth in Surrey have been gravitating to a local food truck that is a common hangout for prostitutes, according to one youth worker.

“You can see a little bit of grooming happening and you really try to discourage them,” said Valerie Clement, Inter Regional At risk Youth Link (IRAYL) supervisor.

IRAYL offers support and keeps statistics on youth who linger along the Skytrain, including in Surrey.

“Some of these kids, we will never see again and some we will see every day,” said Clement who says that some of those youth are now spending their time by a food truck operated by NightShift Street Ministries.  That’s a non-profit society that targets under-resourced adults on King George Boulevard near Gateway Skytrain Station.

“There’s a core group of youth that are gravitating towards this truck,” Clement said. “They really could be in big danger, but they don’t realise it.”

Clement said prostitutes and pimps tend to spend time around the food truck, which opens its doors nightly at 7:30 p.m.

Does downtown gentrification factor in to pushing youth out?

So, what happened a month ago that made these kids head over to new territory?

Clement speculated that Surrey’s development has helped in forcing at-risk youth to look for new territory to hang out in.

Has anybody else noticed this change?

I have to say, I felt kind of heart-broken knowing that the kids IRAYL runs into most are between the ages of 14 and 18. It’s hard to think that they might be targets of pimps and prostitutes. I remember that age in my life being emotionally tumultuous and confusing, but I never found myself out on the street.

My heart goes out to those youths at risk and the workers who devote their careers to helping them.

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