302 Columbia St. Vancouver, BC engagement@dewc.ca 604-681-8480

Introduction

Every woman has a right to safe space, essential needs, and a community that cares and empowers. 

The Downtown Eastside (DTES) as a neighbourhood is well-known within Vancouver and even across Canada for its disproportionate levels of poverty and extreme marginalization. Home to many vulnerable populations including those who are homeless, mentally ill, and/or with addictions, it is also a place known for its creativity, community activism, and tenacity in the face of tremendous stigma.

As trauma begets trauma, especially for communities in survival mode, women in the DTES bear the brunt of violence and abuse.

Despite the constant and epidemic violence facing women (perhaps most widely known during the 90s when many of the Missing and Murdered Women disappeared from the DTES), safe spaces and services welcoming to women remain few and far between. Co-ed spaces only perpetuate and normalize mistreatment, harassment and exploitation. Indigenous women, who comprise 70% of the women accessing DEWC, continue to face staggering levels of violence, overdoses, and child apprehension, compounded by the colonial legacy of familial and cultural rupture, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and systemic racism.

The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre has been named by more than half of women in the DTES as the place they feel safest.

Despite of – and in the midst of – overwhelming odds, women in the Downtown Eastside are not victims in need of saving, but strong women who have a history of forming collective resilience, lifting one another up towards empowerment. The services and structure of the women’s centre grew from grassroots beginnings, responding to the needs of women so as to form a nurturing and non-judgmental environment in which women could take refuge, access resources, and grow together towards healing and wholeness.

The Power of Women (POW) group advocates for justice in matters of housing, poverty, inequality, and more.
It is out of this place of trust that DEWC provides a continuum of care, to, for, and with women:
The clothing room at the drop-in centre is powered by volunteers and accessed by hundreds of women daily.
1. SAFE SPACE

Women-only spaces are crucial for women seeking refuge from pervasive violence, frequent abuse, and harsh conditions, especially as 75% of women in the DTES do not feel safe in streets and in public. Safety also means, in the words of members, “a smile and a shoulder to cry on.”

2. BASIC NEEDS

Our drop-in centre and emergency night shelter are low-barrier, offering essential needs to women without prerequisites. These vital necessities, foremost on a spectrum of services that includes housing, advocacy, and other support, help women bridge the gap from survival to stability and self-sufficiency.

3. A COMMUNITY THAT EMPOWERS

When women gain access to a place of trust and belonging, they build skills, ownership, and relationships foundational to long-term positive change. Women of the centre are not only members but often volunteers and Board members to whom the organization remains directly accountable.

 
The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre serves as more than a resource hub, service provider, and sanctuary: it is a gathering place, shared living room, and irreplaceable cornerstone of belonging accessed by over 500 women, every single day.

The women of DEWC are:

  • Indigenous
  • Chinese seniors
  • Low-income
  • Homeless or living with housing instability
  • Sex workers
  • Transgender & cisgender
  • Disabled
  • Elderly

They are also:

  • Fierce
  • Funny
  • Brave
  • Phenomenal
  • Community Elders, matriarchs and activists
  • Creative
  • Caring
  • Resilient
Demand for our services continues to grow, and now more than ever, your support is integral to our work!

As our drop-in centre is not funded by an existing contract, your contributions are essential to sustain our mandate of safe space, basic needs, and long-term improvement for women in the Downtown Eastside. Your donations go directly towards the most vital of needs: hot, nutritious meals, a place of shelter, and access to a place where sisterhood builds community, which builds capacity, empowerment, and positive change.


What our members had to say about why they love the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre:

“I love being here. The atmosphere cheers you up… you feel like somebody.” -A

“I’ve learnt so much here. The beautiful people made me believe in goodness again.”

“I have so much appreciation for the ladies who make the place so warm and inviting.” -N

“The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre is a foundation of life skills, friends and Elders. It is my sisters, it’s my treaty. It’s a place for water, food, clothing, guidance and shelter. It saved my life.”
-Larissa (pictured at right, dancing in handmade regalia for our fashion show fundraiser last November)


 
Support DEWC to give safe space, essential needs, and a community that cares and empowers:

Every contribution matters. Donate in honour of a woman you admire (choose the Tribute Donation option), and we’ll send a notification by email or postcard.

Regular contributions are crucial to sustain our ongoing work. $5 gives a woman access to the centre, so pitching in $20-30/month makes a tangible difference.

 

 

“And still, like dust, I’ll rise…” -Maya Angelou

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Additional Reading & Resources

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