Theresa fought her way off the street, out of despair


She was a prostitute. A whore. A sex-trade worker and homeless. She was the type of throw-away woman homicide officers might scoff at, had she been murdered.

But she wasn’t. In fact one day soon she’ll be a certified social service worker.

From 1997 to 2005, Theresa Schrader, now 33, walked the streets around Islington and Lakeshore exchanging sex for cash with Toronto’s johns. Once the job was done, Theresa would gather herself and hurry off to her dealer.

Theresa Schrader was a crack addict, big time. Whitney Houston was right when she said, “crack is whack.” It is a highly addictive substance that actually cracks the lips and often empties the wallets and lives of those using.

It did. That’s all Theresa had. No home, sex for pay, crack for the day, and tomorrow — the same desperate schedule.

Theresa was born in Parrsboro, N.S. and raised in Liverpool, N.S. She was thrown out by her adoptive mom at 18. At 22, her newborn son was taken from her by Children’s Aid. At 23 she handed over another child.

Theresa’s life was horrible. Fate made it so. She helped it along.

One day Theresa bought a gun, planning to kill herself on Christmas. Eminem, the rapper, wrote in a song rock-bottom is when “this life makes you mad enough to kill.” In Theresa’s case her victim would have been herself.

On the way to pick up the gun the cops stymied her plans by arresting her for a misdemeanour. Theresa called that moment “divine intervention.” While in jail she decided suicide would ruin her holidays.

Had Theresa killed herself on that holy day it would have made sense. According to, a nonprofit organization that conducts research on prostitution, 75% of sex trade workers will attempt suicide. Theresa had tried before.


The study states: 80% of prostitutes have been raped, sometimes 10 times a year. Theresa was brutally raped by a john, a crime she describes in her award-winning piece for a creative writing contest for the homeless sponsored by Ve’ahavta.

Such is the life of a prostitute. Such were Theresa’s days and nights. She was a dishevelled and melancholy soul.

But that was then.

Today Theresa, through sheer bravery, support and thought, has stopped street walking and smoking crack. After years of abusing, Theresa accomplished something as difficult for a “normal person” to do as fighting off a fierce lion. She grew.

In 2009, Theresa is taking the Social Service Worker Program at George Brown College. She is raising a handsome three-year-old son with her “village” in Cabbagetown.

Theresa is a regular public speaker at the Toronto John School and through Voices from the Street, a charity facilitating public speaking for former homeless people. She is a mentor for women who walked the same streets she did, and has won countless academic awards from places such as the Yonge Street Mission.

Theresa, who will be a certified life coach at the end of June, is launching a consulting business and just aced her first mid-term exam.

Here is a snapshot of a girl who was abused, bullied, alienated, incarcerated, beaten, bruised and high on crack cocaine for a decade. Here is the life of a woman who was often with 10 men in a night.

Here is a short story of a beautiful human being who today is a role model for many men and women, a supported and supportive mom, a student, volunteer and multiple award winner.

Theresa is getting ready once again to reveal her tricks. This time on her website, where she will instruct other women how to gather the courage to get out of the trap she fell into. Stay tuned.

Credit: Toronto Sun

Dawnmarie Harriott