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. Last year alone (2014/2015), WISH served:
- 48,626 meals
- 7,739 sandwiches
- 11,062 bowls of soup
- 10,478 snacks (plus 7,947 distributed through the MAP Van)
In addition, WISH made 2,030 referrals that resulted in women receiving emergency shelter.
Nurses in the WISH clinic made 722 medical referrals.
37 women were referred to detox and treatment
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. WISH is grateful for this generous support but we are devastated that so many women whom we knew had to die for us to get to this place.
We remain ever thankful to those donors, supporters and volunteers who have stuck by WISH over the years, and to our new ones too. While the Province’s generous commitment keeps our doors open overnight, WISH still depends on you to maintain our meal program, our clinic, learning centre, supported-employment program, drop-in services and indigenous women’s programming.
The mission of WISH is to improve the health, safety and well-being of women who are involved in the street-based sex trade and we will be there for our community long into the future.