“It Is Important for Everyone as Humans to Feel Important, Right?” Findings from a Community-Based Participatory Needs Assessment with Street-level Sex Workers
Social Work in Public Health
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A community-based participatory research design informed the development and conduct of a needs assessment with street-level sex workers within a mid-sized city in Ontario, Canada. The research question was: What would help street-level sex workers to live with enhanced safety and dignity within their community? Twenty-four women who accessed a peer-driven drop-in center (SafeSpace) participated in in-depth interviews. Observational data of items requested by women who accessed SafeSpace were also documented over a 6-month time period. The overarching theme of relationships was identified as vital to participants’ ability to live and work with enhanced safety and dignity in their community. Subthemes included: Informal/formal surveillance: Relationships to public space(s); Nowhere to go for us: Relationships with/in community services; and You’re given the time you need: Relationships in a peer-driven drop-in center for/with/by sex workers. Our findings demonstrate how central relationships are, particularly peer, to enhancing or diminishing sex workers’ sense of dignity, self-worth, safety, and enhanced their access to services.