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Beating the mean streets

Thurs, April 22, 2004

BOOKS
by Amy Steele

Beating the mean streets

Elizabeth Hudson reveals her former life as a drug-addicted prostitute

Elizabeth Hudson has spent the past 30 years as a stay-at-home mom in a Calgary suburb. Stylish and articulate, she looks and acts like the typical middle-class, middle-aged woman, but for a long time she lived in fear that someone would discover her past and use it to hurt her two sons.

Elizabeth Hudson

Her secret: she was once a drug-addicted prostitute on the streets of Calgary and Vancouver.

Now, after three decades of actively hiding her past, Hudson has decided she wants people to hear her story in the hope that it will help other young women get off the street. To that end, she has written a book about her experiences called Snow Bodies: One Womanís Life on the Streets, which has just been published by NeWest Press.

Hudson says deciding to end the secrecy was a very difficult, painful decision. For a while, she says, she wrote the book in the third person because it was too painful to "own" the main character.

"From my experience, itís best never to tell anyone about it because itís a really taboo subject. People feel youíre tainted," she says. "I lived in huge, huge fear someone would find out and shame my sons for my sins."

Hudsonís memoir is a haunting, disturbing and fascinating portrayal of life on the streets. Unlike many memoirs, which devote numerous pages to reflection, Hudson simply describes her experiences without any analysis and this makes the book even more compelling.

"I wanted to show, day to day, year to year, what that life was," she says. "You didnít have time to reflect on what was happening."

Hudson, whose father was a doctor, grew up in a middle-class family and spent her teenage years in Calgaryís well-to-do Mount Royal neighbourhood. However, at age 18, she dropped out of university, got involved with a wrong guy and became hooked on heroin. After Hudsonís boyfriend Peter was sent to jail for armed robbery and her parents disowned her, Hudson ended up working as a prostitute to feed her habit.

Her memoir is a brutally honest, unflinching portrayal of addiction and the life of a prostitute. Hudson makes no effort to portray herself as a victim or cast herself in a sympathetic light. Still, the reader is left haunted by many scenes that show how marginalized prostitutes are in our society.

In the book, Hudson is propositioned by her probation officer, forced to give a cop a blow job, beaten by her pimp and ripped off by supposed friends. She also ends up in jail and is attacked by various other prostitutes. In one of the most disturbing scenes in the book, Hudson gets severely beaten by a john in a hotel room and no one comes to her aid despite her screaming.

She also clearly shows the hold addiction had on her and other people on the street. In one episode, she is at a fellow addictís apartment when the police raid the place looking for drugs. The cops destroy the apartment, even ripping up the furniture, linoleum and carpet, but the addicts are thrilled because the drugs are never found. Another time, Hudsonís addict friend decides to buy a plane ticket to Vancouver on the spur of the moment because thereís no heroin to be found in Calgary.

Hudson was eventually able to get off the street after a friend named Jack let her stay at his apartment. She then fell in love with one of Jackís friends and she says that changed her life.

Recently, Hudson has started volunteering at Servants Anonymous, an organization that helps people get out of prostitution. She says that, despite the fact there are now more outreach services for people in the sex trade, the life is more dangerous than ever.

According to Hudson, because of police crackdowns, prostitutes are often forced to work in residential or industrial areas, rather than a main strip where they can look out for one another. And she says Canada hasnít done enough to help make life safer for prostitutes.

"The body count is rising," she says. "If you are a sex predator, women on the street are easy targets. Society really doesnít care because, if it did, weíd do something about it."

Hudson says Canadian cities need to consider creating red-light districts modelled after Amsterdam, where women can legally and safely work in the sex trade. She says right now, women often donít seek help because theyíre terrified of getting busted for drugs or prostitution.

"These women are incredibly hunted, " she says. "Thereís no safe place for these women."

Hudson is hopeful that her book will reach other women in the sex trade who want to get out of the life. "If even one person at risk reads it or someone who wants to make the transition reads it, it will be worth it," she says.

Hudson is reading from Snow Bodies at Pages Books on Kensington on Friday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Copyright ©2004 FFWD. All rights reserved.

Courtesy Calgary News & Entertainment Weekly
http://www.ffwdweekly.com/Issues/2004/0422/book.htm

Snow Bodies, one woman's life on the streets - Elizabeth Hudson

Shaming johns has made life more dangerous for prostitutes

Vancouver Sun
Monday, September 20, 2004

Editorial
Elizabeth Hudson

I am moved to respond to the four editorials about prostitution and the law that were published last week. As a prostitute who worked Vancouver and Calgary streets in the early 1970s, I have spoken repeatedly about the tragic reality that laws aimed against johns such as the "communicating law" or Alberta's Law 206, which allows confiscation of a john's vehicle, only work in making the streets less safe. In my day, we all had our share of bad dates. But there was never the body count of today.

As society acts to punish the other half of the equation in prostitution, it has effectively squeezed out the middle- class john. Not only are the women now forced to work in dark, unsafe areas, but they are left with a lower class of trick. The last 20 years of making the john as responsible as the prostitute is directly attributable for much of the death on the street.

I believe the communicating law should be tossed, as well as all initiatives to shame and blame johns. If nothing else, it would at least make the street as safe as it was 30 years ago.

My book Snow bodies is a graphic memoir of my time on Vancouver and Calgary streets.

Elizabeth Hudson

Calgary, Alta.

Ex-junkie turned wife and mom tells of years living on streets

The Telegram (St. John's)
Sunday, May 23, 2004
 
Republic Of Words
Marc Horton
Edmonton Journal

Beth Hudson gives a quick and furtive glance around to see if anyone is watching, and then pulls up the right sleeve of her black designer-label jacket, exposing a lumpy, telltale scar in the crook of her elbow.

It is the legacy of being a junkie and a hooker three decades ago. The scar and the hepatitis C that continues to eat away at her liver mean that she can never, ever forget her grim and gritty past on the down-and-dirty streets of Calgary and Vancouver.

The scar comes from innumerable hypodermics shooting heroin into her veins when she was a lost and lonely 21-year-old in the early 1970s. The hepatitis C comes from those same needles, most of which were used dozens of times by dozens of different addicts. Not surprisingly, Beth is grateful now that it was in the era before HIV and its deadly counterpart, AIDS.

Her life today is different. She has found contentment in Calgary's ''deep suburbs,'' where she can putter around her garden and play with her three dogs.

Her rich and easy laugh finds joy in her kids, two sons who have both graduated from university and are doing quite well, thank you very much.

Beth Hudson's haunting story is told in Snow Bodies: One Woman's Life on the Streets (NeWest Press). It's a riveting, utterly honest memoir.

''This was my therapy,'' she says of her book. ''I would write a chapter and get away from it. Every time I wrote a chapter I would have to go back there to those streets, to that awful life.''

On and off, she says, it took her 30 years to write the book, first in the third person and then, finally, in the more honest and confessional first person.

''And even when it was done, I wasn't sure I wanted to put it out there because there is so much stigma attached. When you see 'ex' in front of 'prostitute' and 'addict,' the 'ex' looks awfully small.''

But there aren't enough stories, she says, about women addicts.

''Women who are working the streets aren't going to come forward and write their stories, and those who are making the transition don't want to be outed.''

Her past life, she says, was born of an addict's overwhelming obsession for the next fix.

''When all the options run out, all you can do is stand on the street corner to feed your habit.''

Her relationship with her parents -- her late father was a Calgary doctor -- was not healthy, and it remains testy and tentative with her mother.

''All I heard was door-slamming behind me,'' she says of her family life.

''Tough love has its place, but I don't think doors should be slammed in your face. If I had a kid who was an addict, even if he came home once a week, I'd welcome him. Slamming a door is a one-way ticket to the graveyard.''

Hudson was 22 when she managed to find her way out of the street life. As she sat in a Calgary mall one day, wondering what to do next, a friend offered her a place to stay.

''When I moved in with him and his friends, it was all pot and alcohol which, I think, gave me a chance to withdraw. At least nobody there was shoving needles into their arms.''

Women coming off the street are very fierce, she says, a fact that was understood completely by the man she ultimately married.

''He always said that he thought I was lost,'' she says of the husband with whom she has shared the last 25 years and whose identity she protects.

Hudson is her maiden name, and the Calgary neighbourhood in which she lives is also kept secret.

''He's never used my past against me.''

As for her two sons, neither will read the book, she says.

''They're aware of my street past, but they won't read the book because I'm Mom to them, and they don't want to read about the horror I've survived.''

'Nobodies' of the street: Former prostitute describes horrors of drug-infested sex trade

The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)
Saturday, April 10, 2004
 
Weekend Extra
Verne Clemence
Bookmarks
Special to The StarPhoenix

Thirty years have passed since a very sick and scared 22-year-old named Elizabeth Hudson left the dangerous life of a drug-addicted prostitute on the streets of Calgary and Vancouver. But her memories of that terrible time are still vivid, as she demonstrates in her new book Snow Bodies: One Woman's Life on the Streets.

The book is candid and compelling, reflecting the author's desire to educate her readers, and to issue a warning. "I want to tell people what life is like for female addicts, what they face on the streets on a daily basis," she said in a recent interview. "And I hope some young women who may be balancing on the edge will read this and say, you know, that life sounds horrible, dreadful."

Hudson believes little has changed for sex trade workers since her day. "It was heroin back then, and it's crack now, but it's still a treadmill. You have to keep the drugs going and going to live with the danger. That's why prostitutes are the backbone of the drug trade," she says.

The big difference is in the law. Hudson says tougher communication laws have discouraged middle class Johns, leaving the prostitutes to face "the dregs of society." And whereas they once were able to solicit on well-lit downtown streets and take their tricks to the relative safety of hotel rooms, they are now relegated to industrial areas, or cars in dark places where no one can see them.

"They're far more vulnerable than they were in my day," she says, "and it was bad then. I was terrified of the police (she relates in the book how a Calgary cop once forced her to perform oral sex on him in the back of his cruiser), and scared of the Johns. And most of the women on the streets were violent and unpredictable."

Hudson believes the only solution is to legalize prostitution. "We have to give them red light districts," she says. "Places where we can keep an eye on them, where the Johns can be screened so at least we'd know who they (the women) have been with."

"Right now it's open season on these women. Any man who's got a grudge against women, or life in general, can pick up a prostitute, do whatever he likes to her, and throw her out. If she lives, she'll probably be too scared to say anything. If she doesn't, he'll probably do it again.

"If we're a caring society, then we have to do something to stop the carnage," the author says.

Hudson was in her late teens in first year university when she began to experiment with drugs. She was going out with a youth who had already opted out of school and who had turned to a life of minor crime.

She was still living at home, and her middle class parents soon began to object strongly to her behaviour. The conflict escalated and her parents threw her out. "They slammed the door on me," she recalls. They removed everything that was mine, even pictures. I was dead to them. I was gone. I had nowhere to go if I wanted to change."

Hudson agrees that parents are within their rights to discipline their children, but she does not believe in that kind of tough love. "I believe they should always keep the door open a crack," she says.

And she is especially adamant when it comes to addicted women on the streets. They're one of the hardest sub groups to reach, she says. When one of them reaches out, only to be rejected, it's devastating. She had asked to come home at one very low point of her street life, but her mother just hung up the phone.

In fact, it was only through a chance meeting with an old hippie friend that Hudson found her way off the street. It was tough going, she recalls, but she succeeded. She eventually married and had a family, and even managed to mend some of the fences with her mother.

"But," she recalls ruefully, " even though I've been out all these years, my past still reached out and bit me in the liver." She was referring to being diagnosed with hepatitis C when she was in her 40s. "I'm slowly dying from it," she says. After she found out, she tried to contact others she had known during her street days, but learned that most had died.

"Snow Bodies" is how the pimps refer to the white prostitutes in their employ, but that's not why Hudson chose that title for her book. "It sounds a lot like 'nobodies,'" she says, "and that's how we treat street women."

NeWest Press is the publisher. The book sells in paperback for $24.95.

Too much

Calgary Herald
Friday, April 9, 2004
Opinion
Elizabeth Hudson

Re: "PETA anti-meat campaign 'grotesque, exploitative'," April 7.

When an organization which purports to care uses pictures of Vancouver's murdered downtown eastside women as PETA has done they have, in my opinion, lost all credibility.

With their disturbing visual abuse of these women for advertising, PETA has shown Canadians the word ethical should be immediately removed from their non-profit name. Their unscrupulous use of these women for their own commercial ends underscores their inability to even understand what the word ethics implies.

I suggest a boycott so PETA will never again have the advertising dollars to shock us with their mistreatment of our donations, and a boycott will also help end their heartless misuse of these women.

It is our duty as caring humans to protect the memory of these women and to stop immediately any further misrepresentation of their images.

Elizabeth Hudson

Calgary

Gruelling climb from needles to nasturtiums

Times Colonist (Victoria)
Sunday, May 2, 2004
Books And Ideas
Marc Horton
CanWest News Service

EDMONTON - Beth Hudson pulls up the right sleeve of her black, designer-label jacket, exposing a lumpy, telltale scar in the crook of her elbow.

It is the legacy of being a junkie and a hooker, a violent, hardscrabble existence she led three decades ago. The scar and the hepatitis C that continues to eat away at her liver mean that she can never, ever forget her grim and gritty past on the down-and-dirty streets of Calgary and Vancouver.

The scar comes from innumerable hypodermics shooting heroin into her veins when she was a lost and lonely 21-year-old in the early '70s. The hepatitis C comes from those same needles, most of which were used dozens of times by dozens of different addicts. Not surprisingly, Hudson is grateful now that it was in the era before HIV and its deadly counterpart, AIDS.

Her life today is different. She has found contentment in Calgary's "deep, deep suburbs," where, she says, she can putter around her garden and play with her three dogs, the favourite of which is a much-loved Yorkie.

She is likely the kind of neighbour who is free with advice on pesky crabgrass and dandelions. She knows the right time to plant pansies and the wrong time to bring out the nasturtiums. And her rich and easy laugh finds joy in her kids, two sons who have graduated from university and are doing quite well, thank you very much.

Chances are, however, that she still gardens in long sleeves. In the suburbs, it's best to keep the junkie tracks under wraps.

Beth Hudson's haunting story is told in Snow Bodies: One Woman's Life on the Streets (NeWest Press; 267 pages; $24.95). It's a riveting, utterly honest memoir that might be the most courageous you read this year.

"This was my therapy," she says of her book.

"I would write a chapter and get away from it. Every time I wrote a chapter I would have to go back there to those streets, to that awful life."

On and off, it took her 30 years to write the book, first in the third person and then, finally, in the more honest and confessional first person.

"And even when it was done," she says, "I wasn't sure I wanted to put it out there because there is so much stigma attached. When you see 'ex' in front of 'prostitute' and 'addict,' the 'ex' looks awfully small."

Hudson says women coming off the street are very fierce, a fact that was understood completely by the man she ultimately married.

"He always said that he thought I was lost," she says of the husband with whom she has shared the last 25 years and whose identity she protects. Hudson is her maiden name, and the Calgary neighbourhood in which she lives is also kept secret.

"He's never used my past against me," she says of her husband, "and he's never brought it up. But I don't want anybody snickering, and saying, 'He married a whore.'"

As for her two sons, both of whom are between 25 and 30, neither will read her book.

"They're aware of my street past, but they won't read the book because I'm 'mom' to them, and they don't want to read about the horror I've survived. They simply don't want to read the book, and they won't," she says.

Hudson is, of course, concerned about how her suburban neighbours might react.

"What I'm hoping is that people will read the book, and recognize that it's me and still have some kind of recognition of what happens to women when they're on the street," she says.

"Maybe I'll put a face to it."

There aren't enough stories, she suggests, about women addicts. "Women who are working the streets aren't going to come forward and write their stories, and those who are making the transition don't want to be outed," she says, adding that much of her own life was lived in fear that people would discover her dark past.

"Every day, I thought about it. Every day, I lived in fear that I would be recognized," she says.

Her relationship with her parents -- her late father was a Calgary doctor -- was not healthy, and it remains testy and tentative with her mother.

"All I heard was door-slamming behind me," she says of her family life.

She came from an upper-middle-class life, but, "My father being a doctor didn't save me from one beating or one sexual assault. Being on the street doesn't discriminate. Once you're hard-core, you're hard-core."

Her father, however, was more supportive than her mother.

"He visited me in jail and when I was in the hospital," she says.

"Tough love has its place, but I don't think doors should be slammed in your face. If I had a kid who was an addict, even if he came home once a week, I'd welcome him. Slamming a door is a one-way ticket to the graveyard."

Today, Hudson mostly is content.

"I wake up in the morning and I'm grateful," she says. "I'm grateful that I have my husband and my sons. I'm happy that I have a garden that I can putter in.

"After all, I probably should be dead."

Marc Horton is the books editor at the Edmonton Journal.

--------

Author speaks

Who: Elizabeth Hudson

Reading from: Snow Bodies: One Woman's Life on the Streets

Where: PEERS quarters, No. 1, 744 Fairview Rd.

When: Thursday May 6, 7:30 p.m.

With: Lauren Casey, executive director of PEERS (Prostitutes Empowerment, Education and Resource Society

CanWest News Service

 Snow Bodies, one woman's life on the streets - Elizabeth Hudson

Praise for a man who dared to care-Dec 9, 2004

 

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Updated: August 21, 2016