Safety is a top priority for the Street Works van, renovated in 2014 to provide a safer space for both staff and clients.

The van provides harm reduction services (e.g., education, safe needle exchange, HIV/STI testing) to clients who have difficulty accessing healthcare services or require evening services. Many of these clients experience a multitude of health concerns, including homelessness, poverty and addictions, live high risk lifestyles or want the privacy of evening testing.

“One of my most rewarding experiences working in the Street Works van occurred when a former client came by just to say ‘hi.’ She has been sober and drug free for several years, and told me about how she credits the van staff for their non-judgmental and compassionate care, and for helping her get to shelters, detox beds and treatment facilities. She said, ‘You guys didn’t give up on me, even when I gave up on myself.’ This is why I love my job. I know we make a difference either by preventing disease transmission or by supporting and encouraging people who are experiencing life challenges.”
Lisa Little, Public Health Nurse

”The remodel of the van was prompted by heightened awareness of safety after staff attended a training session,” says Lisa Little, public health nurse. “In follow up to the training, our team reviewed near-misses and actual scenarios that were posing a safety concern. For example, one of our staff received a shoulder injury when an intoxicated client gave her a well-meaning but over-exuberant hug.”

As part of the remodel, staff now has access to three alternate exits in the van, and a waist-high partition to separate clients from staff was created.

“The partition cannot be opened by clients, thereby limiting client mobility within the van to reduce safety risk,” says Little. “It also provides counter space for client services and ensures that clients and staff interact with each other in a forward direction, consistent with safer approach zones.”

Street Works Van

Safety is a top priority for the Street Works van, renovated in 2014 to provide a safer space for both staff and clients.

The entrance to the van was also moved from the side door to the back door.

“Having clients enter the van from the back door means they have direct access to a used-needle disposal tub, so they are the only ones handling their used needles,” says Little, adding that after clients drop their needles into the tub, a weighted lid closes over it.

“When the tub is full, staff can lock it in a cabinet and replace it with an empty tub, allowing the van to provide services throughout the evening without having to return to Idylwyld Centre to empty it,” says Little.

In addition, the rear client space in the van was intentionally designed to be small to deter multiple clients from entering the van for service.

“Having multiple clients in the van has a negative impact on confidentiality, restricting staff from discussing client-specific health concerns and offering individual testing,” explains Little, adding that additional tinting was also added to the back door to maximize privacy for clients.

Other improvements to the van include: additional straps to assist clients in stepping in and out of the van, open shelving at waist height to provide staff with easy access to frequently used supplies (secured by high-strength elastic netting) and the use of marine-grade vinyl that can be easily wiped with sanitizer between clients.