British Columbia

Group fighting sexual harassment on Granville Strip needs new funding to continue work

Good Night Out Vancouver is a team of volunteers who walk the Granville strip, offering assistance to both male and female revellers on weekends but a co-founder says without new funding, they can't keep up their work.

Funding from Downtown Vancouver BIA running out in April

An organizer of Good Night Out Vancouver says a looming drop in funding is putting the group's continued efforts in jeopardy. (David Horemans/CBC)

Volunteers taking on sexual harassment at Vancouver night spots say they desperately need funding to continue their work.

Good Night Out Vancouver is a team of patrollers who walk the Granville strip, offering assistance to both male and female revellers on weekends.

"A lot of them are quite young and might be going out for the first few times. And they're quite drunk, often sick. They might be found taking a nap propped up against a building," co-founder Stacey Forrester told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

But in addition to calling cabs and charging phones for people, patrollers sometimes interrupt predatory men from touching, photographing or trying to take vulnerable or impaired women home.

"About 15 per cent of [volunteers] over the first eight-week pilot were intervening on a case of harassment. It's often verbal, or perhaps someone being followed."

However, the street patrols have been on hiatus since November, when the group's funding ran out. Forrester says the group won't get more grant money until April, so efforts have been suspended until then.

Stacey Forrester (left) and Ashtyn Bevan are co-organizers of Good Night Out. (Elaine Chau)

Money needed for volunteer honorariums

But that could change, Forrester says. The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association will pay half the group's costs going forward, so Good Night Out is seeking a second sponsor until April to provide about $8,000.

DVBIA spokesperson Dominic Long says Good Night Out's work is "invaluable," but said the business association cannot afford to fund the entire initiative on its own.

Forrester says the funding is used for honorariums paid to street patrol volunteers and to pay for safety equipment, snacks and sometimes, cab rides home when their shifts are over.

The federally-registered non-profit pays four people $25 per hour to work a four-hour shift on Friday and Saturday nights. She says the patrollers must already have first aid, non-violent crisis intervention training and narcan training.

#MeToo spurs interest

Forrester says with the patrols suspended, the group has recently been busy providing training to bar and club staff to prevent sexual harassment.

Forrester says in the wake of the #MeToo movement, requests for that training have doubled.

She says bars and clubs are eager to have staff who can recognize and prevent situations of sexual harassment.

The next step, she says, is getting them to take accountability for the actions of their patrons.

"We still have a long way to go, I think," she said. "We know there are links between intoxication and harassment and sexual assault."

Forrester says the group has received funding to patrol on New Year's Eve.

Listen to the full interview:

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast