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Vancouver opens Canada's first 24/7 shelter for street-based sex workers

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Sep 29, 2020 at 4:35 pm PDT

Summary

An emergency shelter opened on the Downtown Eastside on Tuesday for sex workers

The temporary shelter offers street-based sex workers a safe, warm place to sleep 24 hours a day

The temporarily shelter will also provide access to WISH support services, including those for literacy and employment

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The first emergency shelter in Canada for street-based sex workers opened Tuesday on the Downtown Eastside, according to the City of Vancouver.

The temporary shelter offers street-based sex workers a safe, warm place to sleep 24 hours a day, says a release from the city.

It is being run by the WISH Drop-In Centre Society and has beds for 23 self-identifying, sex-working women (cisgender, transgender) and two-spirit people, along with hot showers, laundry, and meals. WISH is the largest organization in Canada supporting sex workers.

“Some of the beds will be allocated to sex workers seeking short-term respite spaces, while the majority of the beds will be with a longer-term focus, while permanent housing solutions are found,” says the city, which is leasing out the shelter space at 340 Alexander Street.

“WISH is proud and excited to begin operating Canada’s first-ever 24/7 shelter for street-based sex workers,” says WISH executive director Mebrat Beyene.

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“A shelter exclusively for sex workers has been a need for quite some time, but COVID has now deeply exacerbated the pre-existing crises of poverty, homelessness, and a poisoned drug supply. A temporary, emergency shelter like this is absolutely critical-now more than ever.”

The temporary shelter will also provide access to WISH support services, including those for literacy and employment, as well as Indigenous programming.

“We are proud to be partnering with WISH to be providing this important space. COVID-19 and the ongoing overdose crisis are impacting those most marginalized in our city and the new shelter will offer a space for women who might not otherwise have a place to go,” says Sandra Singh, with the city.

“This shelter will provide vital services that we take for granted every day — somewhere safe to sleep, a shower, laundry facilities and hot meals.”

WISH will also offer a five-toilet washroom trailer and an outdoor safe respite area.