Like many men involved the DUDES Club extension project, Richard’s life has been shaped by homelessness, poverty, injection drug use, and increasingly worse health. Richard has considered the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver his home since he first came here at age twelve.
“Just a young, skinny, little kid with no place to go and not knowing about street life,” recalls Richard.
Despite what he has endured over the past 40 years, Richard succeeded in his efforts to clean up at age 51. As a result, his health and well-being have been improving steadily. In reclaiming his life, Richard takes great pride in being a founding member of the DUDES Club, the Downtown Urban Knights Defending Equality and Solidarity. As a dedicated member, he receives a small stipend for his leadership in running the club, but his primary motivation is that he likes doing it. He says that he wants to give back to the community of men and to be part of creating a safe and supportive space for men.
When Movember funded a research project to evaluate and extend the DUDES Club to rural Northern communities, Richard was on board. To him, the funding of this research not only affirms his and other men’s efforts to collectively create a safe space for men, but also serves as a public outlet for men’s voices and messages. Among those, a key message is to draw attention to the significance of the DUDES Club for men’s health and well-being by giving men a space to gather, connect, and share their stories.
Richard knows that the DUDES Club works, that it has changed – even saved – some men’s lives, but he also knows that to sustain and promote the DUDES Club model, a formal evaluation is needed. Sharing his experiences and perspective as a survey participant and in a focus group with other DUDES members is thus deeply meaningful to him.
“Being from the Downtown Eastside, being a ‘drug addict’, a lot of people, including doctors and nurses, tend to look at you as someone that they’d rather not deal with,” Richard explains. “They figure, you are a manipulative liar, and more often than not, you find that they discredit your own experiences with their condescending attitude. But what people tend to forget is that, especially down here, a lot of men suffer from abuse.”
He believes that the results will help men, particularly those living with histories of trauma, mental health and addictions issues, to gain access to fair and supportive health and social services, such as the DUDES Club in Vancouver.