Life skills: social and health options for persons in sex work (SHOP)

The SHOP Program is one of the many community and peer based programs that ASK Wellness Society of Kamloops, British Columbia conducts with the numerous, diverse and, more often than not, marginalized and stigmatized communities of Kamloops.

The program is staffed with a coordinator (Jillian) and an Outreach worker (Melissa).

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The daily work of SHOP includes supportive counselling, hosting programs, crisis intervention, as well as providing outreach services to those who identify with the program mandate. Access to showers, laundry, internet, and respite emergency housing and referral services is available to those who identify as requiring those resources.

For a sex worker dropping in to freshen up, connect with staff and access the aggressor alert is an important measure in maintaining safety. Sex work takes on many forms, practices and types of workers. Women, men, and persons of the LGBTQ2SP community all access the program.

Many Sex Workers whom access the program have assumed control over their work environments – their body, the places, the times and the fees.

Other work is Survival Based where circumstantially sex work proves necessary to secure shelter, protection and safety while living rough on the streets of Kamloops. The S.H.O.P. program staff facilitate services that ensure local and travelling sex workers have access to information to contract as safely as possible with their customers.

Jillian considers the programs peer services, to be most important in maintaining a healthy and safe working experience and environment. Work hazard issues, completely unknown in most professions, like rape, robbery, assault, intimidation, and extortion are but a few of the conversations and life skills that are a part of most get togethers.

Knowing your rights and asserting them is key – getting together is what they do regularly at S.H.O.P.

The weekly SHOP schedule includes Tuesday breakfasts with the IHA overdose prevention nurse, Thursday luncheons with health practitioners and regular access to support staff and outreach services.

The advent of the opioid and fentanyl crisis, dating back to 2016, has meant that the S.H.O.P. program, which has been around for 20 years, has to be constantly fluid. The coordinator is regularly evaluating its support practices and strategies. SHOP also collaborates with numerous other social service agencies to increase support and service options for each individual sex workers needs. Collaboration is essential in effective client services.

Some of the other supports and services offered by SHOP are: Safe Suite: If you determine that you need a few days to get away, we have access to a bachelor suite that allows people in sex work to simply get away for a moment. This unit has 24 hour staffing and is completely confidential and safe. Alumni Group: Alumni Group represents clients that have been involved in SHOP for quite some time, but don’t necessarily require many supports.

This Alumni group is made up of sex workers that assist staff to ensure that the SHOP programs have relevance for all typed of workers. This Alumni group is comparable to Peer Advisory committees in other centers.

Outreach Services: Watch for SHOP outreach in the community and online. Community Development: Building relationships within the City of Kamloops, RCMP, and other agencies to provide the best support to our clients. Efforts to bridge relationships with Landlords and housing. Creating positive/useful opportunities to build relationships with business, neighbourhood groups, and other stakeholders.

To improve the health and safety of individuals and our community through crisis intervention and harm reduction strategies For more information: FIND US ON FACEBOOK shop@askwellness.ca 433 Tranquille Road Kamloops, B.C. V2B 3

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