Indigenous Health & Safety

Indigenous women are over-represented in street-based sex work in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. More than 50 per cent of WISH participants identify as Indigenous. Many have experienced severe trauma related to colonization, residential schools, and ongoing racism and discrimination.

Previously known as AHSP, the *Indigenous Health & Safety Program (IHSP) is a culturally-relevant response to this severe trauma by providing traditional Indigenous practices that support healthy positive change and spiritual health & healing for Indigenous women involved in the sex trade.

“It begins with women…who carry on traditions, and help one another to heal from addictions, homelessness and so on.”—Participant

The program focuses on three streams:

1-Sex Worker Circle: IHSP invites you to join the team for cross-cultural activities in the afternoons from 2:00 – 4:00 PM, Monday and Wednesdays in various spaces throughout the WISH Drop-In Centre, Learning Centre, or outside in the Safe Respite Area. Come and learn/share Indigenous ways of knowing and being. The program is open to all WISH participants. The Sex Worker Circle would love to hear your ideas on what programming you would like to see!

2- Indigenous In-reach Services (IIS): The Indigenous In-reach Worker will offer culturally safe support to the diversity of WISH’s Indigenous participants. The team will work one-on-one with Indigenous participants who have experienced trauma related to colonization, the residential school system, the foster care system, and systemic discrimination in addition to the violence they face on the streets. Indigenous WISH participants can connect with the IIS team at the WISH Drop-In Centre, Learning Centre or outside in the Safe Respite Area or make an appointment outside of these times.

3-Indigenous Health & Safety Program (IHSP): IHSP understands the importance of reclaiming culture as a method of wellness and change. The IHSP is a six-month-long program that is cycled two times throughout the year. It works with 10-12 Indigenous participants who meet twice weekly for the six-month duration. The program facilitates personal growth through: traditional art and creativity (drumming/singing, storytelling & crafting, etc.); ceremony and personal healing workshops (smudging, protocol teachings & Elder visits, etc.); health/safety/life-skills building (boundaries, values, goal setting and much more). IHSP does this by creating a growth-facilitating environment of supportive sisterhood.

Generously funded by:

  • NIB Trust Fund
  • Pacific Blue Cross
  • Port of Vancouver
  • Province of BC

*”Indigenous” is an umbrella term that is inclusive of First Nations, Inuit and Metis identities. It is a relational word that highlights a peoples’ connection to traditional territories as well as their experiences of colonization. WISH understands a change in terminology is needed to move forward towards reconciliation and a renewed relationshipWhile the organization has used “Indigenous” in all our descriptions and communications and programming for some time now, we are now also updating the name of the program, itself. 

What's Happening

Contact Information:


T: 604-669-9474 (Ext. 113)

Program Partners:

  • Carnegie Community Centre
  • Kilala Lelum (Urban Indigenous Health & Healing Cooperative)
  • Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre
  • Aboriginal Front Door Society
  • Saa-Ust Centre
  • Aboriginal Mother’s Centre
  • Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre
  • Indigenous Community Law Clinic
  • VPD Sex Industry Liaison Officer
  • Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council’s Aboriginal Wellness Program
  • Native Courtworkers & Counselling Association of BC