The Salvation Army is a well known entity to most Canadians, and bills itself as being able to meet the needs of others that need it most. In fact, a visit to their web site at http://www.salvationarmy.ca/ beings you the message ” We See what Most Don’t.” and ” Giving hope today.”
However, an incident at one of the Salvation Army Thrift stores recently left me so angered and shocked that I am still shaking my head two days later.
Friday afternoon I dropped into the Salvation Army thrift store at 7093 King George Highway in Surrey. A dicey neighbourhood at the best of times, the street beside the store is a stroll for the local hookers, and Friday was no exception. There was one very young girl outside trying to drum up some business from the men driving by. Shortly after my arrival, a commotion outside the front of the store started attracting people to the large glass window. The sounds of screams and angry shouting got my attention as well, and I ran over to see what was going on.
It was very clear that some sort of assault was in progress. The young hooker who had just been on the corner outside was now on her back cowered up against the wall, crying and screaming for help. A completely nutty and violent looking guy was kicking at her legs, demanding money and threatening her, and the woman beside me said that he had just hit her across the face several times.He was obviously either her pimp or a dealer,looking for his cash, but regardless – this was too much to stomach. Banging on the window to get him to stop, I looked over to the staff who were nonchalantly still ringing up other customers purchases. I hollered for someone to call the police, and another woman closer to the till asked the staff to call 911 because a woman was getting beat up outside the store.
The staff declined to do so, and continued to ring up purchases.
The woman told them again to call 911, and the woman at the till would not do so, and ignored her.
Shocked, the woman in the lineup then asked if she could use the phone to call 911, and she was yet again refused. The clerk told her they don’t let anyone use the phone, no exceptions. Completely and totally shocked by this, another woman quickly got through on her cell phone.
During this time, myself and a couple others were banging on the glass to keep this guy from hitting her again and getting the licence plate number of the vehicle running beside him, as well as a complete description of the him and the vehicle. We quickly relayed this to the woman on the phone and onto dispatch.
Seeing that he had clearly been identified, the aggressor hopped into the car and drove off, but not before we both saw an infant in a car seat in the back, along with two other women. Again, I was shocked. What a lovely family outing, no? Taking your baby along to beat up hookers. Nice.
Immediately we went to check on the girl who had been beaten only to find that she had taken off. The other customer was still on the line with RCMP dispatch, relaying all the information, but was dismayed to find out that no one was going to attend since both the hooker and the assaulter were gone – despite the fact we had obtained an excellent description of both him and the car, and a licence plate number. She even mentioned that all of this had occurred with a baby in the car, and that didn’t seem to make a difference. She hung up, and clearly was very disheartened by all that had just occurred.
After exchanging quick introductions, we immediately addressed the shocking behavior of the Salvation Army store clerks. Dismal examples of compassionate humans, both of them. I can understand store policies of not letting people use the phone, but any rational human would think calling 911 would be a valid exception.
Even more shocking and disappointing than the failure to call 911, was the complete disregard and nonchalance both clerks displayed at the assault. The clerk ringing up purchases didn’t miss a beat and it didn’t seem to bother her at all that a young woman was being beaten outside her store. Was it because she was a hooker? Was it because this kind of thing happens all the time in this particular area of Surrey? I don’t know her reasons for not wanting to get involved, but personally it made me want to vomit. I’m no fan of the hookers around here either, but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to stand by and do nothing while one gets beaten. It comes down to basic human compassion and the need to help another in the most crucial of moments. I question even my own actions now, and feel like I failed this young girl. Perhaps I should have run outside and stopped him instead of just banging on the class and valuing my own safety. Perhaps I should have tried to find her afterwards. I did neither.
The Salvation Army website has a list on their website that give you ten good reasons why you should donate to them.
Number 4 reads:
” The Salvation Army, in its compassionate concern to exemplify the love of God for a broken world, seeks to reach out to those most in need in our society, and does so without discrimination except on the basis of need.”
Clearly, they failed sadly by all accounts in this instance.