You'll never walk alone with SafeWalk

The SafeWalk program continues to provide students with a comfortable escort if they are feeling unsafe about walking to subways and TTC stops at night

SafeWalk walker Joseph Martins (left) and SafeWalk Captain Keith Reid on duty at St. James campus. Photo: Aneesa Mustapha/The Dialog

SafeWalk walker Joseph Martins (left) and SafeWalk captain Keith Reid on duty at St. James campus.
Photo: Aneesa Mustapha/The Dialog

Feeling unsafe about walking alone? If you’re at a George Brown College (GBC) campus at night and don’t want to walk to a parking lot or a TTC stop alone, SafeWalk is at your side.

The program was started in Sept. 2003 as a joint initiative between the college and the Student Association (SA).

According to collaborative programs co-ordinator Robert McMechan, “in downtown Toronto, there’s a history of crimes in certain areas so we felt a need to initiate this program to protect our students, especially at the St. James campus.”

The program currently operates at five GBC locations: St. James, Casa Loma, Waterfront, the hospitality building and the ESL/design building.

“We have five locations and at each location, we have a team of three each night so there’s one captain and two walkers,” said McMechan. “We always walk in co-ed teams, one male and female and our walks are always completed in pairs.”

The SafeWalk program also provides employment for students who require scheduling flexibility, as the students work at night.

“I wanted to work within the campus because of the flexibility they have with my schedule, and our manager is very understanding in terms of scheduling and working with our school schedules,” said Maryam Usefi, business administration student and SafeWalker. “Also, I do enjoy walking and this is fun way to enjoy it while you’re working.”

The walkers can walk students up to two kilometres, so being physically fit is a pre-requisite of the job. “I enjoy walking, and from the St. James campus we’ve walked people as far as the Eaton centre or Union Station,” said SafeWalk captain Keith Reid.

A typical shift for the SafeWalkers begins at 6:30 p.m. until 11:15 Monday-Friday, with shortened times on Friday and at the ESL building; the shifts consist of about two to three walks per night.

“We aim to get at least two walks a night but we do go around promoting to try to get more,” said Reid. “A lot of people don’t know about the program.”

During down-time between walks, the team can do their schoolwork or simply hang out. The walkers are also kept busy by promoting the SafeWalk Program and various events for the SA.

“They also do the SafeWalk audits and patrols, which we started this year,” said McMechan. “The walkers in a pair of two walk around to different areas of the campus, audit that area and report any issues to security or facilities.”

The SafeWalkers provide more than safety, they provide company and conversation as well for students who would typically walk by themselves.

According to Reid, he strives to form a friendship with every walk the SafeWalkers do saying, “it pertains to the wellbeing of the students, and helps them feel secure and a sense of belonging and letting them know there’s someone that they can talk to.”

The SafeWalk service is available Monday to Friday, from the first day of school in September through to the last day of school in April, with the exception of Winter Break and other days the College is closed, according to the SA website.

If students want to be accompanied on their walk they can call 416-415-5000 ext. 2020 after 6:30 p.m. and have SafeWalkers come meet them.

For more information students can visit studentassociation.ca/services/safe-walk/

and for further details and employment opportunities they can contact Robert McMechan at 416-415-5000 ext. 6395 or at robert.mcmechan@georgebrown.ca.

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You'll never walk alone with SafeWalk