First of its kind emergency shelter for street-based sex workers celebrates one year since opening in Vancouver

One year after Canada’s first 24/7 shelter for sex workers opened overwhelming demand continues

It’s hard to believe it’s been one year since WISH opened the doors to Canada’s first-ever 24/7 temporary emergency shelter for street-based sex workers. The overwhelming demand for the space continues to highlight the urgent need for housing and safe spaces for women and gender diverse people.

“I feel safe sleeping…grateful just to have a place to sleep.” – Shelter resident.

The low-barrier shelter has been operating at capacity since day one. Sadly, this means participants are turned away every single day, highlighting the critical need for shelter and safe spaces in the Downtown Eastside. Unable to meet demand, dozens of participants continue to routinely use WISH’s drop-in and outdoor safe respite area to spend the night.

Since opening day:

In the last year, a total of 119 people used the 23 beds available; the low turnover rate once again highlights the overwhelming demand for long-term housing.    

The temporary shelter opened its doors thanks to the critical support of BC Housing and the City of Vancouver. The space provides 23 beds along with hot showers, laundry, meals, and critical access to WISH’s supporting programs and services. Thanks to the shelter, more than 70% of residents surveyed reported fewer instances of violence and the ability to turn down dangerous work.

“Celebrating this milestone is bittersweet,” said WISH’s Executive Director Mebrat Beyene. “The need for a shelter like this has existed for years and we’re thrilled to have brought it to fruition. But, there is still so much need for additional shelter spaces and housing options for sex workers; particularly women and gender diverse people. A year from now, we hope to celebrate that a significant number of street-based sex workers have secured safe, affordable, and appropriate longer-term housing.”

Spaces like the shelter continue to be critical—now more than ever. We continue to advocate for and work towards a larger, permanent, and purpose-built shelter for street-based sex workers.