History Since 1987, WISH has operated a Drop-in Centre for women in the survival sex trade in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES).
WISH began serving coffee and cookies to a small number of women on a volunteer basis out of the First United Church at the corner of Gore Street and East Hastings. Over the years, as the number of women grew, so too did the scope of the WISH Drop-in Centre Society. The use of the WISH Drop-in Centre has increased 100% since 1999, and we estimate that we reach at least 400-600 different women a month, depending on the time of year. WISH received registered non-profit status in 1991.
The mission of WISH is to increase the health, safety, and well-being of women involved in the survival sex trade in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES).
Six nights a week, for 5 hours each night, WISH provides women living on the street with a safe and warm place to rest away from the daily challenges of their life. Women come to WISH to attend to their basic needs - a hot meal, showers, clothing, and referrals for health care, shelter and detox support.
The women who use WISH have or are at risk of having multiple health issues which can include those as serious as HIV/AIDS,Hep C, and STD’s which are often coupled with mental health problems, unstable housing, emotional trauma and drug use. They are constantly at risk for violence and abuse, of contracting life-threatening illnesses as well as being stigmatised to a point where they are unable to access primary health care to meet their needs.
WISH responds by providing services that directly address these concerns in a non-judgmental manner during the evening hours, when there are very few places for street involved women to seek a source of support, safety and food. WISH is an essential and consistent point of contact with marginalized women in the DTES who access little, if any, support from other service providers and community agencies.
3 employees staff the drop-in each night working alongside between 4 and 6 volunteers. Volunteers perform many jobs ranging from dispensing make-up, serving food, clearing and washing dishes, conversing with the women who come in, receiving, sorting and distributing donations and generally supporting staff. The volunteers are invaluable to the Drop-in Centre and greatly enhance the services we are able to provide.
The Drop-in Centre is the core of the services offered by WISH with other programs building on and strengthening that core. These programs include a Learning Centre in partnership with Capilano College, the Aboriginal Health and Safety Project, a subcontract to Vancouver Native Health, the Mobile Access Project in partnership with Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education (PACE) Society, the Peer Safety Patrol Program,the Capilano University Bridging Programan and continue to be community partners with the MAKA Project of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. All of these programs and partnerships have been developed in response to issues identified by WISH participants, many of whom are members of the Women’s Advisory Group (WAG) that advise board and staff on program and policy development as well as providing feedback on existing services.