A new home for wish wellness centre
For twenty years WISH Drop-In Centre Society, a registered non-profit society that provides a variety of services to female survival sex workers, operated out of the First United Church on East Hastings Street. In 2003 WISH won a $1 million award from Vancity Credit Union which allowed the women who ran and used the centre to begin dreaming about a space of their own. However due to opposition from the public and the high cost of property in Vancouver, it took five years for WISH to find a home.
On November 12th friends, staff and supporters of WISH gathered to celebrate the opening of the new WISH Wellness Centre at 330 Alexander Street. WISH is located in a warehouse space formerly used for evidence storage by the Vancouver Police Department. WISH leased the second floor of the warehouse from the city for 10 years and spent the $1 million Vancity grant on renovations. The Wellness Centre includes a dining area, a kitchen, a TV space, showering and washroom facilities, a nurse’s office, a make up room and Learning Centre. Six nights a week from 6pm to 11pm, up to 150 women use the centre and eat the hot, nutritious meals, are given make-up, hygiene items and clothing, meet with a street nurse, are referred to detoxification centres, rehabilitation houses and shelters, and take part in the activities in the Learning Centre.
The Learning Centre provides opportunities for women to consider alternatives to their present high-risk lifestyles. Instructors from Capilano University and WISH staff offer reading, writing, math, computer training and arts and crafts in the Learning Center on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
Literacy BC has a strong connection to the literacy program at WISH. Literacy BC’s Deputy Executive Director, Diana Twiss, worked as an Instructor in the Learning Centre at WISH from April 2002 until 2006. She and Lucy Alderson, an instructor at Capilano University and a Literacy BC board member, worked together to produce two research reports reflecting on best practices for working with female sex workers:
- Dream Soup and Life Stew
- Literacy for Women on the Streets