Sex Industry Liaison Officer, Constable Linda Malcolm, has worked with the Vancouver Police Department for 41 years. For most of this time, she was in plain clothes and working on the streets, predominately in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. She has worked with at-risk women and men for the last 16 years and with her infectious smile and warmth, has built an unprecedented trust within the community, providing a link between sex workers and the police through support and intervention. Four and a half of these were spent investigating Robert Pickton as part of the Missing Women’s Task Force.
Linda sees herself as another resource in the community to help individuals move forward at their own pace. Some of these folks may not have much confidence and are overwhelmed when they try to navigate ever-changing systems. Blurring the lines between social work and enforcement is how this position differs from traditional policing.
“As a Police Officer in the DTES, building trusting relationships is imperative if you’re making yourself available to assist people with their personal tasks such as getting replacement ID, reconnecting with family or intakes to detox or recovery programs,” explains Linda.
When Linda first saw Streetohome’s Life Intentions Action Planner (LIAP), she couldn’t believe the wealth of information it contained. It’s a tool that individuals can work through on their own, or with a peer, to increase their self-confidence and identify meaningful resources and how to make those connections. The LIAP empowers individuals to plan and realize a better future for themselves, one step at a time.
The first time Linda brought the LIAP into a woman’s shelter was to make a connection with a young woman who had numerous barriers to consider before she could ever think of moving forward.
“Homelessness, poverty, mental health and substance use were distracting for her, but when she looked through the planner, she went crazy for it as it allowed her to focus and re-define what she wanted to work on, and match up with the resources that were available to her. She invited a shelter worker to see her plan and how her commitment and the LIAP’s goal-setting exercises became a record of the progress she made,” says Linda. “This worker continues to use the LIAP with other clients and is seeing progress.”
The LIAP not only helps individuals make connections to services for themselves, but it also adds another tool to each service provider’s toolbox to help foster better community connections between services, improving outcomes for everyone.
Fostering the connections between the police and this vulnerable population is done mainly by listening, being non-judgemental, and trying to connect individuals with supports that are meaningful to them and their circumstance. It’s important to be able to bring in supports the individual has already made connections with to increase their comfort level and to strengthen existing relationships, alongside new ones to help them move forward, says Linda. Some of these supports could be the participant’s building manager, shelter staff, peer support, doctors, and legal advocates.
The LIAP includes over 400 resources for individuals to choose from. By having a variety of choices available, individuals are able to choose what’s a best fit for their unique needs and preferences. They can see a clearer path forward, create a plan, achieve what they set out to do while building and strengthening their support system.
“As people take part in building their plans around what they want to do, it’s important to celebrate their successes and every step they take in their journey, no matter how big or small.”