SAFE eXiting from the Sex Trade (SAFEXST)

Brief Description

The SAFE eXiting from the Sex Trade (SAFEXST) project is an intervention aimed to help people involved in the sex trade exit safely. Implemented by the South Okanagan Women in Need Society (SOWINS), the SAFEXST project uses a holistic approach to service provision that provides a tailored intervention plan for participants. Furthermore, support workers will help guide participants throughout their transition from prostitution to ensure they are supported towards their prosocial future.

The program is centered on counselling and social work; mentoring – tutoring; service referrals; and skills training.


The main goals of the SAFEXST program are to:

  • Help people who are involved in the sex trade safely exit;
  • Provide treatment, counselling, and training tailored to the specific circumstances and needs of the participants; and
  • Support those planning on leaving the sex trade in reconstructing, rebuilding and establishing new roles and identities.


The appropriate clientele for the SAFEXST program is all women, girls, men, boys, and people who do not identify with any sex and gender (from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds) who are involved in the sex trade. Additional risk factors of the clientele may include homelessness, addictions, mental health problems, conflict with the law, and experience of violence as a child.

The program is available to anyone who wishes to exit the sex trade. Referrals can also be made from the partnering agencies of SOWINS.

Core Components

The SAFEXST program consists of the following components:

  • Mobile Outreach Vehicles (MOVs): Initial contact with potential participants is made in MOVs (vehicles staffed by outreach workers from which they can provide basic support – harm reduction supplies, condoms, snacks, clothing, etc.). These vehicles travel a regular route in Penticton and the surrounding communities in order to start building trust and engaging interest of potential participants;
  • Outreach Office/Drop-in Centre: Contacts go through an intake assessment process to determine their readiness and need to enter the  program. A support worker will guide each individual on their journey in the program, supporting the participant to develop their exiting and safety plan, as well as providing advocacy and referrals to existing services and counselling;
  • Residential program: A residential program housing up to 3 participants at a time will ensure the stability and support that will be necessary for participants' entry, retention, and successful exiting of the program. Stays will be based on each individual’s needs; generally for a period of six months to one year. Other supports offered within the program include:
    • Life-skills: A six month, full-time day program which offers instant access to essential life skills sessions;
    • Participant support: Running in tandem with the day program, this support offers individually planned, one-on-one support to help participants get their lives back on track.

Implementation Information

Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:

  • Organizational requirements: In order to properly implement the SAFEXST program, the host organization must have: experience working with the target group (including providing intervention and delivery of services); experience and ability to manage multi-year budgets; and sufficient management and financial systems in place to support the project and budget.
  • Partnerships: Organizations should develop partnerships with agencies from various fields within the community in order to provide the participants with a holistic referral system. Such partnerships should include addictions centres, mental health agencies, victims’ services, local law enforcement, community-based agencies, social services, employment services, pharmacies, transition houses, shelters etc.
  • Training and technical assistance: Training for the program coordinator and case support workers should include on-site orientation and off-site training schedules, including visits to other exiting projects and trauma-based practices. Staff orientation should include off-site procedures and risk management training with a monthly review to ensure understanding and compliance with safety procedures.
  • Risk assessment tools: Limited information on this topic.
  • Materials & resources: Access to a motor vehicle that can act as a Mobile Outreach Vehicle (MOV) is necessary for the success of the program.

International Endorsements

The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:

  • Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
  • Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Not applicable.
  • SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
  • Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.

Gathering Canadian Knowledge

Canadian Implementation Sites

Public Safety Canada’s National Crime Prevention Strategy provided funding to SOWINS to implement the SAFE eXiting from the Sex Trade program from 2016 to 2021 in Penticton (British Colombia) and its surrounding communities.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

As part of Public Safety Canada’s funding, an outcome evaluation study of SAFEXST/ She Soars/ Soaring was carried out between 2017 and 2022 by Reciprocal Consulting. The evaluation methodology included a mixed-methods design, including qualitative (e.g., interviews) and quantitative (e.g., questionnaires) measures. The evaluation used a strengths-based participatory approach and the methodology was grounded in an Indigenous worldview.

Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • Across five years of the program, there was a total of 1,816 requests for service, 671 referrals, 2,249 support sessions, and 315 advocacy and accompaniments recorded by the SAFExst staff.
  • The program’s mobile outreach van’s total yearly mileage (in kilometers) ranged from 3,999 km the first year of the program to 28,952 km at its peak usage, with a total of 24,393 harm reduction supplies, 11,420 naloxone kits, 12,205 fentanyl test strips, and 3,796 COVID-19 sanitation kits distributed across Years 2 through 5 to clients in need.
  • When asked what changes had happened since engaging in the program, participants frequently identified outcomes related to their wellbeing (25%; n = 17 of 68), including improved nutrition, deduced substance use, leaving their abuser(s), and overall living a healthier and more stable lifestyle.
  • When asked about the most significant changes since entering the program, 46.2% of participants (n = 18 of 39) reported improvements to wellbeing, confidence, spirit, and courage, as well as an increased ability to find safe housing.

Cost Information

A social return on investment (SROI) has been conducted on SAFEXST/ She Soars/ Soaring. The findings from this study have shown the following:

  • The total benefited generated by the SAFExst program amounted to $48,231,563.55 in social benefits, which corresponds to a total social return of $11.58 for every $1 invested in the program.
  • This social return was realized mainly through increases in the clients’ basic needs being met (e.g., food, shelter, hygiene), access to health services, financial stability, mental, emotional, and physical health, harm reduction behaviours, educational attainment, as well as decreases in clients’ substance use and encounters with the criminal justice system.


Reciprocal Consulting. (2022). SAFExst: Services, outreach, resources and strategies to exit the sex trade. Evaluation report.  [Unpublished final evaluation report]. Submitted to Public Safety Canada.

For more information on this program, contact:

SOWINS (South Okanagan Women in Need Society)
102-1027 Westminster Avenue West
Penticton, British Columbia V2A 1L4
Telephone: (250) 493-4366

Record Entry Date - 2018-03-12
Record Updated On - 2023-01-09
Date modified: