Supports expanded for vulnerable people in Downtown Eastside

Press Release

June 15, 2023

VANCOUVER – Vulnerable people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, such as those managing addictions or mental-health issues, sex workers or waste pickers, will have more access to supports through a funding increase for community partners and service providers.

“We all want to see a healthier, more hopeful and safer Downtown Eastside, where people can access the services and supports they need to establish a positive community and thrive together,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “When someone makes the brave decision to seek help, we want them to be met with services that match their needs. That’s why we’re funding more services.”

Many people in the Downtown Eastside are rebuilding their lives. The $700,000 for community organizations will expand services and supports for the most vulnerable people at every stage of their journey.

Street sex workers need a safe refuge and a point of contact to access health and well-being services, harm reduction supplies, and learning and employment programs. Wish Drop-In Centre Society provides them with this through its Mobile Access Project (MAP) and at the drop-in centre.

“Our drop-in centre is aging and sees busy usage 365 nights a year,” said Mebrat Beyene, executive director, Wish Drop-In Centre Society. “This funding will help us make much-needed repairs to our space, which is an important element in creating a safe, welcoming and dignified space for participants.”

Women, as well as transgender, Two-Spirit and non-binary people, can access support through meals, counselling, advocacy and nurturing programs in a non-judgmental environment at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre (DEWC). The centre also provides support to women who are Indigenous, seniors, homeless or disabled.

“The need for DEWC services and supports has increased substantially over the past couple of years, where the number of meals we are providing each day has doubled,” said Alice Kendall, executive director, Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre. “Among other key improvements, this significant contribution from the Province allows us to add appropriate kitchen facilities where we can produce quality, nutritious and healthy food for our members”.

Waste pickers, or “binners,” face stigma when working as informal recyclable collectors, and they gain recognition and visibility as part of the Binners’ Project. Over the past year, the Binners’ Project, an initiative of MakeWay Charitable Society, engaged more than 300 people in programs that increase waste diversion, social inclusion and community economic development.

“Providing binners with uniforms gives their work legitimacy and purpose,” said Sean Miles, director of the Binners’ Project. “These funds will allow us to expand our uniform kit to include rain jackets and durable gloves to keep them better protected all year round.”

During the drug toxicity crisis, keeping people facing addictions alive is the first step in helping them access health care and treatment. The Overdose Prevention Society, a grassroots initiative leader in the harm-reduction movement, provides jobs, drug testing, harm-reduction supplies, food and a safe space for people to get the support they need.

“This funding will make it possible to continue to help Downtown Eastside’s most vulnerable population,” said Sarah Blyth, executive director and founder of the Overdose Prevention Society. “It will allow the purchase of emergency supplies, including water, beds, blankets, food, furniture, feminine products and diapers.”

The Province will continue to work with community partners and co-ordinate integrated social, health, housing and cultural supports so people in the Downtown Eastside can access the services they need.


Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions –

“There is an urgent need to support people with mental-health challenges and addictions across the province. This investment will help some of our most vulnerable populations in the Downtown Eastside get the supports they need and deserve on their journey to wellness.”

Eunice Chowace, participant in the Binners’ Project –

“I used to stay at home all the time, and I’d never go anywhere, but Binners’ Project got me outside again. Having a little extra money in my pocket gave me a feeling of ‘I earned that money.’ It gives you a good feeling inside.”

Quick Facts:

  • Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre is receiving $600,000 to renovate its facilities, such as centralized office spaces, upgraded accessibility features, programming space and a kitchen that will provide meals for more than 900 women.
  • Wish Drop-In Centre Society is receiving $54,000 to upgrade the centre’s facilities.
  • Binners’ Project is receiving a $25,000 grant to purchase supplies, safety gear and uniforms.
  • The Overdose Prevention Society is receiving a $21,000 grant to purchase emergency supplies.

Learn More:

To learn about the steps the Province is taking to improve access to housing and supports in the Downtown Eastside, visit:

Wish Drop-In Centre Society:

Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre:

MakeWay – Binners’ Project:

Overdose Prevention Society:


Alessandra Vinhas
Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction
Media Relations
250 812-9118


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