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Street team that aims to keep clubgoers safe launches in Victoria on Friday

Team members in peach-coloured hoodies are on the lookout for people experiencing unwanted interactions, or alone and needing help reuniting with friends or getting into a cab
Good Night Out team members, from left, Christine Richardson, Paballo Tsolo and Khushi Harmilapi in Bastion Square. The team will work 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays downtown helping bar goers find a safe way home and intervening to prevent sexualized violence or harassment. Story, A5 DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A Vancouver program that tries to prevent sexualized violence and ensure clubgoers get home safely after a night out is launching in Victoria on Friday.

Good Night Out’s street outreach team will operate Fridays and Saturdays between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. in downtown Victoria, with a team of two walking the area looking for people who are vulnerable or in distress.

“We act as a friendly and approachable presence, helping people find their friends, charge their phones, or access transportation,” said Christine Richardson, co-ordinator for the pilot project in Victoria.

Team members wear peach-coloured hoodies and carry backpacks full of snacks and juice boxes as they watch for instances of harassment or predatory behaviour.

They’re on the lookout for people experiencing unwanted interactions, where someone clearly looks uncomfortable, or people who are alone and might need help reuniting with friends or getting into a cab, Richardson said.

They’ll roam an area bordered by Wharf Street to the west, Johnson Street to the north, Douglas Street to the east and Fort Street to the south, with offshoots down Douglas to encompass the Sticky Wicket and on Yates Street to include Capital Ballroom.

The program currently operates in Vancouver’s Granville Street entertainment district on weekends and has received federal funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada to pilot a street team in downtown Victoria until the end of 2025.

The program will run in Victoria until mid-September, at which point the team will assess and potentially restructure based on its experiences during the summer, with the goal of continuing to run the program to the end of 2025, Richardson said.

Downtown Victoria has a lot of tourism in the summer, and adjustments may be needed as the demographic changes in the fall, she said.

In a survey conducted by Good Night Out last year, nearly 88 per cent of respondents said they felt unsafe working in or being part of Victoria’s nightlife. About 82 per cent said they felt a late-night outreach team is necessary in Victoria.

Richardson, who has worked in Victoria’s nightlife scene, said she often left work around 2:30 a.m. to find the streets flooded with people as bars and venues closed, but venues don’t have the staff to be waiting with people for a taxi and ensuring everyone gets home safely, she said.

In connecting with establishments, Richardson said she has heard a strong desire for a program like Good Night Out to address sexualized violence.

Sgt. Matt King with Victoria police’s special victims unit said VicPD supports Good Night Out’s services “as they provide important information about consent, referrals to organizations for survivors of sexualized violence and help support a safer nightlife experience.”

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