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The DUDES' Club

An innovative health service model for marginalised inner-city men living with or at risk of HIV infection in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside - one of Canada's most impoverished neighbourhoods.

The project

We were inspired by the work of the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program, which offers healthcare services to marginalised African-American men at barbershops. This model of bringing tailored, high-impact health services to men in their comfort zone struck a cord with us. Furthermore, research indicates that peer-support initiatives have a profound influence on health and community mobilisation.

We decided to build on this model with input from the community. The interest was so strong that 80 men attended our initial focus group meeting. They told us about loneliness, stigma, going home to a little hotel room, never having a partner and feeling that people don't care about them because they have HIV.

The DUDES' Club now hosts up to 50 men on alternate Thursday evenings, with an ever-growing core of participants who direct the activities and vision of the project with weekly committee meetings.

We do things in a very Aboriginal way, which means food must be part of the programme because when you feed the body you also care for the spirit, mind and emotions. So we provide dinner, a barber, an Aboriginal Elder storyteller, and the highlight of the programme: a very approachable physician who explains things in everyday language. Other activities include tai chi, bowling, poker, hockey pools, cards, and sports trivia.

The DUDES' Club has been more successful than we ever imagined. We knew the need was there, but we also understood the barriers that prevent the men in our community from accessing services. We're a little concerned about how large the programme is getting, but that's a good problem!

“I can’t believe how it took off. We had a number of men who gathered together that said: we would come together every week, every second week, we’ll cook the food, we will help run the group. There was energy. It just went like that.”

- Doreen Littlejohn, Vancouver Native Health Society

“So for this to come together the way that it has… has been magical, truly magical.”

- Richard Johnson, Vancouver Native Health Society

“It has now been two years that these men have been gathering together. We keep getting more and more and more, but what’s been amazing about it is that we’ve had men come in and support other men and set the programming up.

They decide to do men things. So they have a hockey pool, they have poker tournaments, they have bowling nights, but they also have a doctor that comes in and dedicates himself to men’s health. And they talk about men’s health, but they talk about men’s health how men talk about men’s health.”

- Doreen

“The doctor when he speaks he tells it like it is, and this is what the fellows want to hear. They are not afraid to ask questions; I think questions that sometimes they may be reluctant to ask their own doctors. And it’s really good because to ask those kinds of questions amongst sixty to seventy guys, that’s trust. That’s feeling safe.”

- Richard

“I get goose bumps on my arms when I hear these men speak because I’ve never heard men come together in fellowship and share like these men have. It’s just amazing.

I am so proud, I am so proud of the DUDES’ Club that we have at Native Health. I just want everyone to know about it. And I would like to see more DUDES’ Clubs across Canada. I would like to see more men come together in fellowship like this group of men does. It’s so powerful.”

- Doreen

I get goose bumps on my arms when I hear these men speak because I’ve never heard men come together in fellowship and share like these men have. It’s just amazing

Doreen Littlejohn, Vancouver Native Health Society

Our mission

1. To build solidarity and brotherhood between the members of the group.
We recognise that support and a sense of community have direct, measurable positive impacts on health and happiness.

2. To promote men's health through education, dialogue, and health screening clinics.

3. To enable men to regain a sense of pride and fulfillment in their lives.
This is a critical process of helping men take back their life, and gain autonomy and a greater sense of purpose.

The DUDES' Club is committed to carrying out its stated objectives in an inclusive, nonjudgmental, and holistic way. Underlying the three main objectives is an ongoing emphasis on the importance of respect, brotherhood, equity, and spirituality in helping men feel more complete. We are committed to dialogue, collaboration and teamwork in all we do. We recognise that trauma, addiction, poverty, social marginalisation, and health issues affect many of the men in our group and we work to address the structural factors that have a damaging impact on the overall health of men in our community. Members of the DUDES' Club are the voice of the project in driving its vision and planning its activities.

Key Facts

The DUDES' Club

Run by:
Vancouver Native Health Society

Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, one of Canada's most impoverished neighborhoods

Marginalised inner-city men, mostly of Aboriginal ethnicity, living with or at risk of HIV infection

Stigma and discrimination; poor education; poverty and unstable housing; injection drug use; mental illness

Bi-weekly group meetings focussing on peer-support-driven men's health education, traditional storytelling, and male-oriented recreation