SisterSquare: A Popup Refuge for Women on the Downtown Eastside

Please click the above image to take you to the news article about the new OPS tent for Women Only - 'Sister Square' which has been set up on the corner of Jackson and Powell in the Aneki parking lot.

It is open 24/7 hours and will be open until July 31/2020.

The OPS tent is run by Atira and is an extension of Sister Space. The site was set up due to the on-going threat of COVID-19 and OD Response at this time. The tent is for women only to provide women with a safe place to go away from risk of violence and find warmth, companionship, food/drink, a safe place to use drugs and to feel comfort as well as the opportunity to be connected to health, housing and employment supports and services as well. There is a safe using space and washroom. There is juice and dinners given out in the evening. Atira are in the works of getting a coffee pot , stand up heaters, a shower and another wall set up too.

Janice Abbott executive director of Atira Women’s Resource Society, says it’s important to have a women-only space, even though people of all genders and backgrounds are in need of support, because women are at greater risk of violence.Women are not screened for COVID-19 before entering, but Abbott said if a woman displays symptoms she would be supported to get tested and isolate from others.

Peer support workers whose hours were reduced at SisterSpace now work to prevent overdoses at SisterSquare, and more have been hired to run the many services offered in the tent.

The project was made possible by a $100,000 grant from Central City Foundation and organizers hope it can continue through the summer and fall as risks of the pandemic change.

Jennifer Johnstone, CEO of Central City Foundation, says an important aspect of the project is that it was based on the needs identified by community members.

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