VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Staff at Canada’s first women-only overdose prevention space say the site has been subject to violent attacks by men, as more women access the service.
SisterSpace, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside allows women to use their own illicit drugs under the supervision of trained workers who carry naloxone. They can also access a clinic and peer workers, and get referrals for treatment and housing.
About a month after opening, the space is seeing 50 women a day, and getting busier.
Program manager Jacqualene Worrall says women are finding the space more comfortable than other mixed-gender services.
“Often they might have been with men who are violent towards them, they make threats, comments, they don’t feel comfortable. So they feel safe when they come here.”
Janice Abbott, the chief executive of Atira Women’s Resource Society, says the need for the women-only space has been highlighted recently.
“We have had several incidents with violent men who are upset that women are in here and they don’t have access to this space,” she says.
“So, on the weekend one of those men kicked in our window at the front and we had to have the window replaced.”
“It’s not a surprise to us, but it just validates the need for a women-only space. He was angry that his girlfriend was in here and he couldn’t control her and so he kicked in the front window.”
SisterSpace isn’t considering extra security, but has cameras in place, and staff now lock the doors.
The space will soon have a nurse practitioner on site, and Worrall says women are benefiting from one-on-one support and peer workers.
“We’ve hired women that have experience with living on the Downtown Eastside,” she says.
“These women are very intelligent, they care about what’s happening down here and they want to do something about it.”
SisterSpace is at 135 Dunlevy Street. Worrall says many women using the space Downtown Eastside locals, but some travel from New Westminster and Burnaby.