June 17, 2019 9:58 pm

Funding gap could scrap Vancouver’s anti-sex assault street team this summer

Good Night Out's pink-shirt clad street team walks the Granville Strip in this undated photo.

Good Night Out Vancouver
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A Vancouver non-profit that works to prevent sexual harassment and assault and provide safety and support for people in the city’s entertainment district says it is so short of funding, it may not be able to operate this summer.

Good Night Out Vancouver suspended operations this spring due to a funding crunch, but founder Stacey Forrester said it had hoped to be up and running again for July, when calls for service double.

READ MORE: Downtown Vancouver sexual assault support team suspends operations due to lack of funding

Last spring, the City of Vancouver and Downtown Vancouver Business Association agreed to each cover a third of Good Night Out’s operating costs. Forrester said the group hired a grant writer to try and shore up the remaining cash it needed to run year-round, but has come up empty handed.

“Instead of it being a one-month pause, we now we have no foreseeable way of opening it up again,” Forrester told Global News.

“We will need to decide in the next week if we are going to pull the plug on July … [and in] July and August our service reach doubles compared to May and June.

Good Night Out fields a four-person street team that patrols the entertainment district and liaises with nightclub staff, helps intoxicated people connect with their friends and get home safely and provides education and other harm reduction services.

Their estimated $60,000 annual budget mostly goes to pay staff a living wage, along with bottled water, small snacks and a storage locker, Forrester said.

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She estimated to keep operations running for July would cost about $5,000 — of which the group has managed to raise about $1,500 so far.

“We saw how busy we were last summer, and even through the fall was there was work to be done in terms of supporting women out at night,” she said.

READ MORE: ‘Grab another beer, not a stranger’s butt’: Vancouver campaign uses hops to fight harassment

“It does really break my heart because I know that our services are needed, we continually get messages from people wondering when we’ll be back.

Charles Gauthier, president and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Association said there is no doubt that the peer-support services Good Night Out offers are a benefit to the entertainment district.

But he said his organization is already maxed out in terms of the support it can offer, noting his organization supports numerous projects on its slim $3 million budget.

“It’s a difficult one because from our perspective there should be more buy-in for that kind of service. I mean if they’re able to intervene and help women or other individuals that might get bullied or targeted within the entertainment district, we think there’s a need for that kind of service,” he said.

READ MORE: City of Vancouver spends more on safety along the Granville strip

“But at some point there’s only so much we can do as an organization and we’ve provided them support I think well over two years.”

Lisa Dominato, a Vancouver city councillor with the Non-Partisan Association (NPA), is spearheading an initiative at council next week seeking a comprehensive nighttime strategy for the city, of which she said safety in the entertainment district needs to form a core component.

WATCH: Vancouver city council considering new safety measures for Granville

“It’s certainly concerning,” she said of the potential loss of Good Night Out over the summer months.

I understand that our staff are open to exploring options, and we’re just at the beginning of our budget cycle for this year. So it’s certainly open to looking at that with council.”

READ MORE: For some, Vancouver’s nightlife is a nightmare. Could the solution be a ‘Night Mayor?’

Vancouver’s chief licence inspector Katrhyn Holm said the city has been in direct contact with Forrester about the group’s funding crunch and is looking at ways to try and keep the group on the streets.

“We’re actively working internally to determine how we could provide funding to the organization, and we will be coming back to council shortly with a report on that matter,” she said.

READ MORE: Good Night Out campaign comes to Vancouver

However, she said the city is encouraging Good Night Out to look for alternative ways to come up with the remaining cash needed to operate for the summer months.

For Forrester’s part, she says she plans to make a presentation to council next Wendesday when it discusses Dominato’s night-strategy concept, with hopes of securing more long-term funding.

In the short term, the organization is operating a crowdfunding campaign with hopes to raise enough to keep boots on Granville street through July.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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