VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A new permanent shelter space for street-based sex workers has opened up on the Downtown Eastside just as the temperatures begin to drop again.
During a soft opening on Monday, a group of women — many who are homeless — were given a safe place to sleep thanks to WISH Drop-In Centre Society.
Women who were able to use the new emergency shelter have been spending their nights at the WISH drop-in centre, which doesn’t have beds.
“Priority was given to those women who have been previously using our WISH drop in as a de facto shelter … sleeping in those lounge chairs, instead of actually being able to lie down and sleep. And of course, having to leave once we close at noon every day,” Executive Director Mebrat Beyene tells NEWS 1130.
“We’re so pleased that women were able to get a solid night’s sleep. And, in fact, a couple of the women that were staying on Monday, laid flat for an uninterrupted 10 hours, which is wonderful. And so we just feel absolutely thrilled that the doors are finally open, and that women are getting to sleep and be safe.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, WISH has had to move a lot of their services outdoors, but with the weather cooling down Beyene says she is glad to give permanent space to women in need.
But she adds, they’re still accepting both clothing and cash donations right now to keep services going during the pandemic.
“We do ask people again because we’re still in the midst of this pandemic to go to our website and have a look at some of the protocols that we’ve offered about just laundering everything once and just throwing it in a bag sealing it up and bringing it to us. That way, just to keep it as safe as possible,” she advises.
Although Beyene says cash donations go a long way, especially during the pandemic.
“Cash donations at this time makes it really helpful for us to be nimble and be able to deliver whatever services are needed in the moment. So becoming a monthly donor or a one time donor — all of the above would make a massive difference.”
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We’re extremely proud and excited to announce that WISH will soon be operating Canada’s first-ever 24/7 shelter for street-based sex workers! The temporary shelter will provide beds for 23 self-identifying sex working women (cis, trans) and two-spirit folks along with hot showers, laundry and meals. The space is really coming along! “A shelter exclusively for sex workers has been a need for quite some time, but #COVID19 has now deeply exacerbated the pre-existing crises of poverty, homelessness, and a poisoned drug supply,” said Executive Director Mebrat Beyene. “A temporary, emergency shelter like this is absolutely critical.” We’re proud to be partnering with the @cityofvancouver to make this dream a reality. Precariously housed and unhoused women in the sex trade will now have a place to temporarily call home while continuing to access all the programs, services, and wraparound supports that WISH has to offer. • • • #vanpoli #wishdropincentresociety #wishdropin #shelter #emergencyshelter #vancouver #sexworkiswork
The shelter will fully reopen in the next few days and Beyene says she is filled with gratitude for the community effort.
“The sort of the chaos that follows the lives of having to secure a place to stay, every single day and sometimes twice a day — it just means that now they can start to accomplish any of the other goals that they wanted to accomplish. Whether that’s accessing more of the services at WISH, or just using some of our staff to access services that they need to outside of WISH as well.”
– With files from Tarnjit Parmar