The federal government announced $2.13 million in funding Wednesday for a South Okanagan Women in Need Society initiative.
The safe exiting from the sex trade (SAFEXST) program provides assistance to women who want to get out of the sex trade through individualized programming. It also helps them overcome barriers with dignity and self-determination in a respectful environment.
Stephen Fuhr, Kelowna-Lake Country MP, said the government is committed to community-led programs that reduce harm and crime in the Okanagan Valley.
“We are proud to support programming like the one provided by the South Okanagan Women in Need Society that empowers at-risk individuals to make positive and healthy decisions by giving them access to support and opportunities to exit the sex trade they wouldn’t otherwise have. I am confident it will make a meaningful difference,” Fuhr said in a press release.
SAFEXST is a five-year project that began in 2017. It will reach up to 200 participants of all ages.
Debbie Scarborough, SOWINS executive director, said the funding will provide much-needed low-barrier supports to a very vulnerable but resilient demographic.
“We believe that the harm reduction approach we are taking has allowed us to connect with people where they’re at. The mobile outreach van provides services to the entire South Okanagan, delivering harm reduction materials, overdose prevention education, and other basic necessities,” she said in the release.
“The centre is a resource for women who are engaged in or at risk of relying on sex work as a means of survival, and we are dedicated to supporting women toward safety and positive social and health outcomes. We are proud to be a resource for health promotion and harm reduction in our South Okanagan communities, and will always strive to improve accessibility and reduce barriers.”
The $2.13 million investment was provided under the Crime Prevention Action Fund, which supports projects for at-risk children and youth, as well as high-risk offenders.