A local grassroots organization is hoping to make upgrades to one of its longest-running programs to help make streets more safe for Victoria sex workers.
PEERS Victoria Research Society has launched an online fundraising campaign #Rolls4Strolls to raise $25,000 to purchase a RV or camper-sized van as a mobile drop-in for sex workers.
As part of the society’s current night outreach program, two staff members drive to Victoria’s stroll in a passenger van and hand out supplies such as food, harm reduction supplies, clothing and other health and safety-oriented information, seven days a week from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Staff also help connect women with housing, health care and small business training programs.
The society helps roughly 15 to 25 of the city’s most marginalized women every night and roughly 140 over the course of the year.
But the van is limited in the services it can provide.
“It’s old and needs to be retired. We just don’t have enough room in it,” said Leah Shumka, executive director of the society.
Over the next three months, the society hopes to raise enough money to purchase a larger van that will allow it to provide better services.
“The reason we’re trying to upgrade is to have a physical space for workers to access when it’s raining and to come, sit, have a cup of coffee with us and report things like bad dates or connect with our housing programs,” Shumka said. “It’s crucial to have that space and currently we do not.”
In the past, the society has operated a larger RV and know first-hand the impact it has on the community.
“It creates a sense of community and safety for them,” Shumka said. “To see us out there and just to have that bigger space will add to that sense of community and security.”
For more information or to donate visit safersexwork.ca.