When Brenna Bezanson made the transition out of sex work, she faced stigma surrounding her former profession. PACE Society was a place where she was accepted for who she is and supported her while she explored new options.
After working hard with PACE to rebuild her self-esteem, Brenna jumped at the opportunity to become the community liaison and communications coordinator at PACE Society, a peer-driven community partner that has been providing frontline support to sex workers under a harm reduction model for the past 22 years. Support services include one-to-one counselling, case coordination, peer outreach services, drop-in services and a newly launched peer health navigator program.
As one of about 400 members of PACE, Brenna knew what members needed to feel safe and supported while accessing services, and PACE’s new location was not providing the privacy she believed members deserved.
Central City Foundation donors support projects that empower people to live healthy and vibrant lives, which is why our donors funded the construction of interior walls, creating counselling offices, as well as renovating the kitchen at PACE’s new headquarters in Gastown.
“We are really aware that the folks we work with don’t necessarily have a home where they feel safe and comfortable,” says Brenna. “We wanted this to feel like a home, because we are a family, and having these private spaces has created that atmosphere.”
PACE is open to all genders, but their membership is predominantly women who are street based or working independently from home. The members can access support programs and groups, see a counsellor or take a moment of respite for themselves – which has become especially important during the current opioid crisis that has resulted in hundreds of overdose deaths in the city.
“Counselling is a very personal thing and you want to do it behind closed doors,” said Laura Dilley, executive director of PACE. “Central City Foundation really allowed us to build those walls to provide them with safety and security as they access our services.”
Since the walls were constructed, Brenna and Dilley have both noticed a change in how their membership use the space.
“For the folks that come here for the sense of community there has been a huge shift,” said Brenna. “In our old space, people would not stick around and the chaos of having competing services didn’t feel welcoming. It’s helped people feel like the services respect them.”
By choosing to work with community partners like PACE, CCF continues to be an innovating funder in helping create safe and comfortable spaces for the city’s most vulnerable to heal. From renovating and sound proofing an exam room at the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective, to furnishing the new Wellness Hub at the Urban Native Youth Association, we know that organizations do their best work in functional and comfortable spaces.
“Central City Foundation is great because they fund capital projects,” said Dilley. “Without them we would not be able to expand the services to meet our members’ needs.”