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Street team launches to keep Vancouver Island club-goers safe

'If you lend your ear and your heart, most people have a story that they'll share with you'
The Good Night Out street team members wear peach-coloured hoodies so clubgoers who need peer support can easily find them.

On Friday, June 14, a street team in Victoria launched with the goal to help prevent harassment and gender-based, sexualized violence.

The Victoria Good Night Out street team, an extension of a Vancouver-based program, will be roaming the streets in peach shirts every Friday and Saturday night from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. with harm reduction supplies and a watchful eye.

"We're looking out for anyone who may be vulnerable," said pilot project coordinator Christine Richardson. "We're offering support, performing bystander intervention. If we see someone who looks like they need help or see some red flags, then we intervene."

The team of two follows a downtown route down Wharf to Johnson, Johnson to Douglas, breaking off down Yates, then back down Douglas to Fort to end up back at Wharf. Along the way, they stop at as many bars and venues as possible.

These individuals have intersecting identities and lived experience, in addition to peer-support training from Good Night Out. On hand, they carry harm-reduction supplies, including water, safe sex supplies, menstrual products and naloxone, which they are trained to use. They're also equipped to collaborate with other services, such as the community-led crisis response and Victoria Sexual Assault Centre.

"People were curious and receptive," Richardson said of their first weekend out.

The team helped a few individuals who were sick outside some of the closing bars. They also helped people get into taxis, including checking on a couple where the woman was clearly more intoxicated to make sure she was okay with the situation.

"We acted as a more approachable and friendly presence to help people in a way that security or venues might not have that capacity to," added Richardson.

As past general manager at Victoria Event Centre, Richardson first got acquainted with Good Night Out when she wanted to ensure her staff were educated on consent, bystander intervention and power dynamics.

"There is a gap when establishments close, sometimes abruptly and the streets flood with people. And those staff and security don't have the capacity to monitor activity outside after closing," Richardson said.

The organization offers workshops on sexual violence prevention for restaurants, bars, pubs, festivals and more, as well as conducts annual surveys.

In their 2022 survey, 61 per cent of respondents said they experienced harassment at an establishment in Victoria, and 82 per cent were unsatisfied with the response or lack thereof.  Eighty-eight per cent of respondents said they felt unsafe in Victoria nightlife spaces.

The Victoria pilot of the program will operate in downtown Victoria until the end of 2025, with an assessment and potential restructuring happening in mid-September.  The program is thanks to federal funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada. 

Richardson said the goal is to eventually expand so they can have a pop-up booth in addition to their street team, potentially in Bastion Square where people can regularly find the organization for information and supplies.

For her, she has seen and heard enough first-hand stories to know how much it is needed.

"If you lend your ear and your heart, most people have a story that they'll share with you. Especially people who work in nightlife. Especially feminine presenting people," Richardson said. "It's really learning how to make sure everyone feels safe, and empowering people with the skills to advocate for themselves and others in those situations."

A Victoria Good Night Out street team launched on Friday, June 14. Christine Richardson


Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
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