Mobile Access Project van started in 2004 to help street
Cheryl Rossi, Vancouver Courier
Published: Friday, June 19,
A van that drives to the darkest, most isolated corners of the city in the
early morning hours and gives sex workers condoms, clean needles and
descriptions of violent johns has been pulled off the street because the
provincial government hasn’t renewed its funding.
B.C.’s new solicitor general, Kash Heed, a former Vancouver police officer,
could be the man to save it.
Kate Gibson, executive director of the WISH Drop-In Centre Society, received
an email from Premier Gordon Campbell’s office Wednesday noting her emails to
the premier had been forwarded to the solicitor general. She quickly penned the
new minister a letter.
WISH executive director Kate Gibson says the van, the
funding for which was cut by the province, is the only constant in a street sex
Photo Dan Toulgoet
survival sex workers don’t have in their lives, except for the constant threat
of violence and harm,” she wrote. “Even in their darkest moments women out in
the middle of the night alone, standing on the corner, know that the MAP van is
The Mobile Access Project van began in 2004 as a partnership between WISH,
the Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education (PACE) Society and the
Vancouver Agreement Women’s Strategy Task Team. It has run on irregular
injections of cash from the federal and provincial governments and, in 2007, a
one-time contribution from a private donor kept the van running until the
provincial government came through with more money.
WISH spends $20,000 a month staffing the van with a driver, support worker
and peer support worker, who is often a former street prostitute. Until last
weekend, it ran seven nights a week, 365 days a year, from 10:30 p.m. to 5:30
MAP staff connected with survival sex workers 13,650 times in 2007/2008 on
its route to Boundary Road, Marine Drive, through the Broadway, Fraser and
Kingsway corridors, the industrial areas, Downtown Eastside and to Davie
Staff gave out 76,576 clean needles, collected 49,469 used ones, and handed
out 95,376 condoms. They offered first aid and referrals, gave out coats and
umbrellas when it was cold and passed on messages from women’s families.
MAP van staff also collect 95 per cent of the “bad date” reports about
violent johns circulated to women in the industry and the agencies that serve
them in Vancouver and Surrey.
“If we have licence plate numbers and things like that, that information all
goes directly to the police, and then they can investigate,” Gibson said.
Const. Lindsey Houghton, media relations officer for the Vancouver police,
says the department supports MAP because it saves lives.
He said bad date reports help officers investigate and gather intelligence,
and the department appreciates more eyes on the street.
“Having a resource like the MAP van out there certainly enhances public
safety,” he said.
The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General told the Courier in an
email Thursday that the funding request is being reviewed along with those from
many other groups, and decisions will be made as soon as possible.
WISH has organized a protest along the MAP van route starting at 9:30 p.m.,
Tuesday, June 23. For more information, email email@example.com.
The Courier was unable to reach Heed before press time.