Below the Belt reports back on year one

Below the Belt (BTB) is a drop-in safety center for male identified persons involved in the sex trade.

"Coming into the office every once in awhile feels like coming home and having a family," said one BTB client.

Below the Belt opened its doors in 2013 with the goal to create a safe place for respite, offer appropriate resources, build a peer community, provide peer mentoring, and increase the ability to access broader community and government resources.

Demographics
In 2014, BTB saw 56 unique persons ranging in age from 17-48. Of these 56 persons, 75 percent identify as gay, 20 percent as bisexual, and 5 percent as straight.

In terms of ethnicity, 60 percent identified as Caucasian, 30 percent as Aboriginal, and 10 percent as Asian.

Of the 56 clients, 85 percent use Meth, Cocaine, GHB, or Crack and more than 50 percent are transient or homeless.

Buyers are typically men in their mid-40s, many of which are married.

Trends
The current drug of choice is Methamphetamine, which tends to lead to riskier behaviour. HIV rates are also on the rise, especially in Edmonton.

Frequently used methods of communication include Craigslist and cellphone apps such as Grindr and Tinder.

Transactions typically happen over the lunch hour, most of which occurs within bathhouses and bars. Reports indicate that male sex workers make, on average, more than female sex workers.

Programs & Services
Below the Belt offers a variety of programs and services:

  • Support: includes immediate crisis intervention and problem solving
  • Basic Needs: includes food, clothing, and bus tickets
  • Safety Plans: empowers the individual to be on alert; reduces the risk of victimization and violence
  • Breaks: clients can rest, relax, and connect with peers and community resources
  • Referrals: include to other community agencies, treatment centres, and the Edmonton Police Service
  • STI/HIV Testing: on-site STI/HIV testing program provided by the Alberta Health Services STI team
  • One-on-One Support: outreach support on an as needed basis
  • Peer Support: group activities help to provide a sense of normalcy and aid in breaking damaging drug and party cycles

"Sometimes courage takes two people and C was there during the beginning and continues to be there... I have been clean for two months and keeping it together..." said a BTB client.

Reach the full 2014 Report: Year One for additional statistics.

BTB is a collaborative of community organizations including Alberta Health Services STI Clinic, Boyle McCauley Health Centre Kindred House, Catholic Social Services, CEASE: Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation, E4C Crossroads Outreach, Edmonton Police Service - Vice Section, HIV Edmonton, Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, Metis Child & Family Services Society, RCMP KARE Pro-Active Team, REACH Edmonton, and Streetworks.

Visit the BTB website for more information.