Streetlight people: perspectives of Street Outreach Services staff on the loss of harm reduction services in Victoria, BC.




Hobbs, Heather

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On May 31, 2008, one of Canada’s oldest needle exchange programs was forced to close its doors. Street Outreach Services (SOS), run by AIDS Vancouver Island, was evicted from its fixed site location in downtown Victoria, BC, due to years of inadequate funding and resources, and pressure from community members who blamed SOS for “public disorder” on the city streets. Without a new location from which to house the program, SOS has since operated as a mobile service. This case study documents the context surrounding the closure of SOS and the perspectives of outreach staff regarding the transition from fixed site to mobile services-only. Specifically, this study addresses the question: How have service delivery changes and restrictions impacted SOS outreach work? In addition to participant-observation, media and report analysis, primary data are derived from six semi-structured interviews with SOS outreach workers and a thematic analysis highlights common experiences of loss, isolation and changes in relationships with clients. A discussion of strategies for collective responses to ethical distress includes social justice perspectives.



outreach work, needle exchange, harm reduction, social work, moral distress, Victoria (B.C.)