Programming Connection

HIV Community Link
Calgary, Alberta
2011

What is the program?

Shift addresses the needs of women, men and trans people who are or were engaged in sex work. It attempts to create safer working conditions and ultimately improve the quality of life of sex workers.

They accomplish this through a series of interconnected services: online and street-level outreach, practical assistance, case management, and advocacy efforts with police, the media and the public.

Shift approaches its work through a harm reduction framework, which recognizes that abstinence isn’t necessarily the best option for people. Instead proposing strategies to help individuals make safer and healthier choices through a variety of services actually helps improve people’s lives.

Shift also utilizes a rights-based approach, which recognizes the rights of sex workers as workers to be treated with respect and protected from danger and as individuals, who have the right to appropriate health care, housing, safety and security.

The cornerstone of Shift’s work is to support its clients in the articulation and achievement of their own goals, which is accomplished through a combination of the services available through the program’s drop-in centre including: case management, counselling, advocacy, referrals and education for sex workers on harm reduction and human and legal rights in relation to sex work. Shift also publishes monthly “bad date sheets,” which are used to help sex workers share information on potentially dangerous or abusive customers (called “dates”).

Though Shift is not an exit-oriented sex workers’ program (meaning that sex workers are not required to work towards exiting sex work to access services), sex workers served by Shift who wish to exit sex work are provided support to do so.

The self-identified goals of sex workers participating in the program are very diverse and may also include learning life skills such as budgeting, obtaining an escort license, recovering from addictions or managing health. The program uses its interconnected services to serve their diversity of clients.