“I Had No Choices” – Hear directly from a WISH Supervisor
Choice is a loaded word. Many of the participants who walk through our doors face limited options. When Avery Gray* was living in a tent on Alexander Street, she didn’t know what WISH was. One freezing night, she was invited into the drop-in for a hot chocolate and decided to check it out.
“I didn’t share any details of the work I did at all because I just felt that if I, you know, made enemies with even my closest friends, that they would somehow rat me out to the ministry and it would go against me and my kids, right?” she shared.
Avery Gray describes how experiencing homelessness and living with substance use severely limited her options, “I had no choices at that time,” and even now she says, “I don’t really know what got me through it to be honest with you. Things kinda just started slowly day by day, increasingly getting better and better and a lot of that is because the support I got from here.”
Having support available when she needed it made a difference, “anytime that any, you know, upsetting situations happened or anything, I’d be able to come here at any hour of the day. Like midnight, three in the morning, anytime, and [ WISH ] was always here.”
Avery Gray is modest about her accomplishments, but her journey is truly incredible. After joining WISH’s Supportive Employment Program, she found work that she enjoys and is great at. Now, she has progressed from an entry-level role to become a program supervisor at WISH, overseeing nearly 40 employees.
“I guess I’m the first one that’s kind of gone from participant into management and that is my dream to have every participant here just succeed so much that these are options for them.”
Having staff with personal experience of what it’s like to access services at WISH is immensely valuable to those depending on WISH. Avery Gray knows firsthand how “it takes somebody to feel welcome before they feel that they have choice or options to do anything else.”
To do this, we need to create opportunities that meaningfully engage street-based sex workers, while prioritizing their safety, autonomy, and self-determination.
“I definitely am starting more and more to feel like, oh, I could be this somewhere else too. It’s not just here. I’m valuable everywhere, right?… I can do it, so I think everybody else can.”
*Alias used to protect confidentiality