At the heart of the Living in Community model is the bringing together of different groups who are impacted by or have an impact on sex work – current and former sex workers, support organizations, Indigenous groups, health organizations, police, business, government, community organizations. As a group, we take stock of what is happening around sex work issues in the community and in the broader societal context. We discuss our concerns and what we can do to make communities healthier and safer. We don’t always agree, but we are committed to listening and understanding the different voices around the table. And we commit to take action where there is agreement.
The Living in Community model is an integrated way to improve the health, wellbeing and safety of all community members who are impacted by sex work, from sex workers themselves, to businesses, support services and residents. Sex workers and all community members address the health and safety issues related to sex work and youth sexual exploitation. Our model has 4 key areas that we focus on changing:
- Changing culture: Stigma is one of the biggest barriers that sex workers face to accessing services and supports that meet their needs, and to their being treated in a humane and respectful way. However, most of our understanding about sex work comes from the media, movies, and other inaccurate, sensational sources. Through our training, workshops and public education, we work to provide factual information about the realities of sex work and sex workers’ lives, which is a key part to shifting how we think about and respond to sex work. Through the conversations we have with the public and policy makers, we are working to create a culture of acceptance, dignity and justice where sex workers are seen as for the whole human beings that they are. For more information about our training, check here.
- Changing relationships: Change doesn’t happen in isolation. Although collaboration is hard work, we know that to get at the roots of social problems, it’s essential to bring together diverse and often opposing voices to really understand the problem and find effective solutions. By bridging relationships between groups who usually don’t sit at the same tables - such as police and sex workers - we create the possibility for new ways of being together, as well as for new solutions to emerge. The broader community also has a role to play in addressing the social issues that face our cities and towns. Everyone’s voice is important in creating solutions to the impacts of sex work and everyone can be a part of the solution in creating communities that are healthier and safer for everyone.
- Changing practice: Sex workers live rich and diverse lives, and require a spectrum of supports to meet their unique needs. Changing practice is about creating accessible and responsive services and institutions to meet sex workers wherever they are at. This includes outreach and sex work-support services, as well as access to criminal justice, healthcare,housing and supports to transition to other kinds of work if requested.
- Changing policy: We know that we can’t simply provide band-aid solutions to the big social issues of our times. Food banks are great – but they don’t fix poverty. That’s why we are focused on helping to create policies that shift bigger systems and transform how we think about sex work and how we interact with sex workers. For example, the City of Vancouver’s Sex Work Response Guidelines is a balanced approach to safety, health and well-being for sex workers and neighbourhoods impacted by sex work. We work with other organizations and institutions to develop their own policies that get at the root issues that create inequities for sex workers.