“I lived there for nine days, and there were three young kids. I think they lived in the cul-de-sac I moved into. They kicked in my door. They beat me with a baseball bat. They wrote “*** tranny” on my wall. They smashed most of what I own,” says Mikayla, a 47-year-old transgender woman. “My journey has been difficult. However, today those scars are symbols of my strength, not reminders of my pain. Those experiences have shaped the woman I have become, and are the inspiration for my trans rights advocacy and activism efforts.”
After the brutal assault, Mikayla turned to WISH, a Mission & Service partner, for support. Located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, WISH’s goal is to improve the health, safety, and well-being of women who are involved in Vancouver’s street-based sex trade.
The vast majority of women WISH supports participate in the sex industry by choice. But choice is relative. Extreme poverty, lack of housing, trauma, mental health issues, stigma, violence, and more can limit the ability to choose.
“Systemic barriers mean that most are resorting to street-based sex work as a means of survival,” says WISH.
Everyone has felt the impacts of COVID-19, but vulnerable residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside are hit especially hard.
“Every sex worker we support has experienced sudden, total income loss. More women are turning to street-based sex work for the first time. There’s increased violence. The closure of safe spaces and public facilities due to COVID-19 has left hundreds of people without the ability to social-distance, and without access to basic sanitation,” WISH reports.
To respond to rising needs, the WISHing Well Initiative was launched to provide access to basic sanitation, including showers. A five-toilet washroom trailer and an outdoor safe respite area was added to their backlot. The MAP Van, which provides outreach services to street-based sex workers, added a day shift. The Drop-In Centre expanded its hours.
“This is the first time in WISH's history that we have been able to keep our doors open during the day, something we hope we can continue for years to come. You’ve made a tremendous difference during these dire times,” WISH thanks supporters.
Your gifts through Mission & Service provide non-judgmental support and safe spaces. Thank you for caring.