Cody Yancey, owner of Yancey’s Dickson Street Dogs, provides bar-going revelers a place of refuge from the darker side of nightlife culture.

Acknowledging the potential dangers that can accompany a night on Dickson Street, one well-known business owner has established his food cart as a safe place for anyone in need of help.

UA alumnus, Army National Guard veteran and Yancey’s Dickson Street Dogs owner Cody Yancey posted on Instagram just before the 2021 school year began. The caption of his post, which circulated rapidly on social media, discussed toxic aspects of nightlife in Fayetteville and established Yancey as a helper and his stand as a safe place for revelers in distress.

“I think it just organically happened over a number of years,” Yancey said. “Just being down there and being the type of person I am, I would always try to help people when I could and that is pretty frequent down there.”

After coming back from a deployment to Kuwait in 2007, Yancey visited his brother Adam, who was attending Duke University. Adam worked as a bouncer at the time in the entertainment district of Durham, North Carolina, and Cody accompanied him to his job, sparking an idea.

“At the end of the night, he gave me some of his tip money to go get some hot dogs from a hot dog stand there and that’s kind of when I had the idea,” Cody said. “It was a late-night, college-town, entertainment-district hot dog stand and I thought that would be perfect on Dickson Street.”

Cody started his business around New Year’s Eve 2008 and quickly turned it into a full-time job. He has helped many people in danger on Dickson Street over the past 13 years. As a soldier he gained experience and knowledge to de-escalate most situations, he said.

Cody’s excellent situational awareness allows him to recognize when people are in trouble, Adam said.

“I think he’s better at reading the energy of the crowd and the customers,” Adam said. “There’s a lot of times — even while he’s working and he’s busy — he will spot a problem in the crowd or in the line before it even escalates and turns into anything and he’s very good at de-escalating situations like that.”

When Cody posted in August about his business being a safe place, the Fayetteville community responded positively, sharing the post across social media. In the caption, he noted he has been trained to recognize opioid overdoses and carries Naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, for worst-case situations.

“He honestly just truly enjoys helping and taking care of people and he’s very invested in his community,” Adam said. “I think he wrote that post just stemming from the fact that over the last 10 years, I mean several times a month, he’s having to help people.”

Jenny Sorey, the founder of an anti-trafficking organization called Hub of Hope, reached out to Cody after he posted on social media about sex trafficking recognition and intervention. Since the organization’s launch in 2016, Sorey has helped around 200 individuals escape sex trafficking in Northwest Arkansas, most from Dickson Street.

“That was a really powerful meeting with her, to get some training on identifying people that are in those situations and what to do and say and information to relay onto them if they decide that they want help at some point,” Cody said.

One in four women experience sexual assault in college, but only around 5% of victims report and around 6% of men on college campuses commit sexual assault, said Erin Womack, a UA graduate assistant at the Campus Sexual and Relationship Violence Center.

“We have a huge gap between the number of people who experience sexual (and) relationship violence versus the number of people who are committing it,” Womack said. “So, 94% of men don’t commit these crimes but only 6% do and that really tells us that there are repeat offenders.”

Cody establishing his cart as a safe place sets an expectation that he helps people in need, so he is likely to embrace the responsibility, Womack said.

At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, Cody was concerned about opening back up and not having any customers or community support, but the reality has been far different, he said.

“Our community is just amazing,” Cody said. “Everybody rallied around me and my story and came out, and I think I sold out the first night and maybe the second night. I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been since I opened in April and people are just awesome. I appreciate everybody’s business.”

Yancey’s Dickson Street Dogs is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. for anyone looking for a snack, help or just to hang out, Cody said.

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