‘DUDES’ club helps guys feel safe in the Downtown Eastside
A man is served food at last year's annual Dude's Club health fair in Vancouver. dudesclub.ca photo
For more than five years the DUDES Club has provided a safe social setting in the Downtown Eastside where vulnerable men can gain access to health services, a warm meal, spiritual guidance, and all with enough time left over for bingo.
The DUDES club, which stands for Downtown Urban Knights Defending Equality and Solidarity, meets every second Thursday and is a community outreach project headed by the Vancouver Native Health Society in collaboration with the Men’s Depression and Suicide Network at UBC.
The bi-weekly event is usually home to around 50-60 men from the DTES, both from Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal backgrounds.
“The one philosophy that we really embodied is that you bring health to where men feel safe, because men don’t come in to see the doctor,” said Paul Gross, medical director of the club and a professor at UBC. “Because these guys go to a drop in centre where they normally hang out, it’s a place where they already feel comfortable and we’re coming to them, rather than the opposite – it just flips the dynamic.”
According to Eric Schweig, project organizer for the DUDES Club, the group has become a great focal point for fostering community ties and strengthening positive social dynamics.
“It’s just about having a good meal, and some camaraderie, and we have some bingo we play some games, and just bringing the guys together and keeping them aware of some of the things that are available to them,” said Schweig.
Coming up in August, the group will be hosting its fourth annual men’s health fair where there will be screening stations for oral and prostate cancer, blood pressure, STDs, diabetes, and cirrhosis, ending with a big feast. The fair usually draws between 100 to 150 men from the DTES.