Our History


WISH began at St. Michael’s Anglican Church in 1984 as a Drop-In Centre for young men and women who worked in Vancouver’s street-based sex trade. 


WISH reopened after a 3-month closure as a women-only space.


WISH moved into a space donated by First United Church.

  • With the introduction of new “prostitution” laws in 1987, 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 location on Hastings and Gore, in the heart of the Downtown Eastside (DTES).

WISH received $1 million award from Vancity

  • In November 2003, WISH was the proud recipient of the Vancity $1 million Award. This award was made to WISH to enable our organization to establish the WISH Wellness Centre, a 24/7 facility for women working in survival sex. The centre will include relevant programming, a primary health clinic, meeting space for other organizations serving women as well as for women’s groups within the community.

The MAP Van hit the road for the first time

  • In 2004, BC PWA – BC Persons With Aids – honoured WISH with their “Above and Beyond” Award for the work that WISH does for women who are both infected and affected by AIDS. WISH was nominated for this award based on the focus of health and safety for women working in the sex trade and particularly the service of hot meals six nights a week to women who frequently have compromised immune systems. It was truly a privilege to be nominated and chosen for this award.
  • Kate Gibson becomes Executive Director of the WISH Drop-In Centre Society
  • Introduction of Aboriginal Programming – the need for this program was determined by the Sisters of the Four Corners, an ad hoc committee of indigenous women who live/and or work in the DTES.  
  • On March 15th, the MAP Van hit the road for the first time.

The Peer Safety Program was introduced

The program provides women with an opportunity to volunteer and eventually work at WISH. For women who wish to seek mainstream employment, opportunities are limited and barriers are high. The program seeks to reduce these barriers by providing opportunities to develop the skills, experience and confidence required for women seeking to reduce their reliance on sex work and/or to make a transition when ready.


WISH moved to the current address at 300 Alexander Street

In September 2008, the current facility on Alexander opened its doors. It is a large, purpose-built facility that serves over 800 individual women each year.


The MAP Van temporarily came off the road

  • In June of 2009, the MAP Van was taken off the road due to funding shortfalls. For 3 months, the van was unable to provide essential support to working women all over Vancouver. Thankfully, after protests and letter-writing campaigns, the MAP Van came back on the road thanks to funding commitments from municipal and provincial governments.
  • The WISH Health Clinic was completed in late 2009. The clinic provides women with access to regular health care without having to fear judgement and stigma from healthcare professionals.
  • The Peer Volunteer Program was introduced within the Supportive Employment Program.

The Aboriginal Health and Safety Program expanded

The Aboriginal Health & Safety Program (AHSP) is a culturally-relevant response to this, helping Indigenous women involved in the sex trade reclaim their culture. They do this by connecting to each other, participating in cultural crafts and activities, learning new skills related to Indigenous traditions and experiencing sisterhood with each other.


Release of the Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

There were 63 recommendations for action, including a recommendation that WISH was receive additional provincial annual funding to increase the hours of operation at the Drop-in Centre and the MAP Van.


WISH drop-In hours were extended from 5 to 18 hours each night – 6pm to 12noon every day


Mebrat Beyene became Executive Director

After 10 wonderful years, Kate Gibson left her role as Executive Director.


The WISH Music Therapy Program started

Through the WISH Music Therapy program, WISH participants can engage in a range of musical experiences, allowing them to express themselves in a way that transcends words; engage in therapeutic conversation using music as a tool; build meaningful connections with peers; collaboratively work on coping skills; work on projects with long term goals; and rest, re-center and ground themselves.


The Transitions Program Started

In collaboration with WISH, PACE, Aboriginal Front Door and HIM, the Transitions Program supports women in moving to safer sex work, or to reduce their reliance on sex work, or to eventually exiting altogether.
In Spring of 2017, WISH faced major funding cuts and in response, had to close the WISH Drop-In for 1 night a week and keep the MAP Van off the road of 1 night a week. Thankfully, these funding cuts were reversed by BC Housing and the City of Vancouver.
WISH Learning Centre earns National Literacy Award.