What a difference a day makes…
It’s been one year since the MAP Van day shift began operating in response to an increased demand for our trauma-informed and harm reduction supports and services.
The MAP Van has provided essential services for woman-identified street-based sex workers across the City of Vancouver for 17 years. However, 2020 proved to be a year like no other. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the escalating opioid crisis, and the inequitable rates of violence and discrimination against street-based sex workers meant the community we serve needed the MAP Van more than ever.
“Thank God!! I am so excited to hear that. It makes such a big difference for you all to come see me.” – MAP Van participant, responding to news of the new day shift
The creation of a day shift not only allows the van to operate 15 hours in total every day, rather than the original six overnight hours, but it also allows us to reach a new community of street-based sex workers who face extreme barriers when accessing supports.
Within one month of operation, the day shift began to serve as many sex workers as the night shift. In just one year, demand for day-time services quickly grew, with staff seeing greater demand for harm reduction supplies, food, and drinks during the day than during the night shift.
Day shift staff had more than 10,419 interactions in one year
Additionally, the day shift allows the MAP Van to spend more time visiting various hotels, SROs, and other supportive housing buildings than we are able to at night. This change has enabled van staff to maintain connections with participants relocated outside of the DTES as part of COVID-related housing initiatives and establish and deepen relationships with external service providers.
Amid a deadly overdose crisis due to an increasingly toxic drug supply, the need for overdose response also became a key element of the new shift, with staff responding to more overdose calls during the day than at night. In the last year alone, the day shift has given out more than 500 Narcan kits.
What if the MAP Van stopped operating during the day?
The MAP Van has developed unique and long-standing relationships with a diverse community of street-based sex workers across Vancouver. Extending our hours has expanded our capacity to support participants and has enhanced our ability to serve those we may not have been able to connect with at night.
Over the last year, we have developed significant relationships with new participants who usually do not have a phone, access to transportation, or access to the very geographically specific service bubble that is the DTES. These participants have been structurally disconnected from many services, especially sex work-specific services.
“I’m so grateful for having the van. I really depend on you and look forward to seeing you!” – MAP Van participant
This past year has proven the need for a daytime shift, and WISH is committed to continuing this well-used and needed increased service. Losing the day shift would not only disconnect these community members from necessary and often lifesaving services, but it would significantly damage their trust in the reliability and accessibility of our services. We owe it to them to continue to provide services that physically and philosophically enact the core principles of harm reduction by meeting participants where they are at.
Click here to learn more about the MAP Van.