History

In 1984, WISH began as a Drop-In Centre for young men and women at St. Michael’s Anglican Church.

In 1986, after a 3-month closure, it reopened for women only.

In 1987, with the introduction of new prostitution laws, there was a concerted community effort to drive “prostitution” out of the Mount Pleasant area. As a result, WISH’s funding was terminated.

Thankfully, First United Church welcomed WISH on December 4, 1987 at its church on Hastings and Gore, in the heart of the Downtown Eastside.

In 1991 WISH was registered as a non-profit society and in 1998 it received charitable status with Revenue Canada.

Over the years, word spread through the community that WISH was a safe place for sex-working women, and our numbers of participants began to grow. At this time, women were going missing from the DTES at alarming rates, and the need for a place like WISH, where women could find support, assistance and allies, was urgent.

In November 2003, WISH received Vancity’s $1 million award to build a new facility.  Finding the site was challenging, as many residents were not comfortable sharing their communities with a centre for sex workers.

Happily, in December 2006, the City of Vancouver voted to offer WISH a space in what used to be the Police Garage on Alexander Street.  The City also contributed to the capital costs of the facility as did the BC Gaming and Enforcement Branch, Mr. Dave Ritchie through the BC Women’s Hospital Foundation, and the Central City Foundation.

In September, 2008, the current facility opened its doors. It is a large, purpose-built facility that serves 500-600 individual women each year.

In 2013, WISH received an annual commitment from the Province of BC to open our doors overnight, in response to the recommendations made in the 2012 Missing Women’s Inquiry report.

When the opioid crisis began in 2015, the Downtown Eastside was point zero. As the crisis became more impactful, changing both WISH and the neighbourhood, WISH saw more women accessing services and needing greater supports. WISH has responded to this emergency alongside other front-line organizations in the Downtown Eastside and will continue to fight alongside the women who access WISH to get through this time.