The world’s first and only women-only, community-accessible overdose prevention site.
SisterSpace is a safe, clean supported environment where women who use can inject their own drugs, inside, with other women who care about their safety and security. If they choose, they can connect to addiction, health care and community services, information about which and referrals to will be made on site.
The staff at SisterSpace create respectful, reciprocal relationships with women, recognizing that women are the experts in their own situations and the decision whether or not to make changes in their lives and what kinds of changes, is theirs alone. Trans women, genderqueer women, and non-binary people who are significantly femme-identified are welcome.
SisterSpace offers witnessed, harm reduction services for women who inject drugs, including a casual, staff and peer-supported injection room, health education, access to treatment and health care services, housing support, legal advocacy and other related services, on site. Coffee, tea, juice and snacks are available.
Vancouver Coastal Health
City of Vancouver
B.C. Women’s Hospital
Why a women-only space?
A quick literature review suggests there is only one women-only supervised consumption room worldwide, but which is attached to women’s housing and is not accessible to the wider community. Located in Hamburg, Germany, RAGAZZA addresses the core needs and care of women who use drugs who also work as sex workers. The staff is comprised exclusively of women. In a survey, 80% of RAGAZZA’s “clients” reported that they feel more comfortable and safe among women. In addition, they reported that the atmosphere in a woman-only space is more relaxed than is a mixed-gender service. 90% of respondents said that they could speak more openly about their problems and they trusted staff more readily, which made it easier to accept offers of help. (from Drug Consumption Rooms in Europe. Models, Best Practices and Challenges: http://www.eurohrn.eu/images/stories/pdf/publications/dcr_europe.pdf).
We know from our own experience at Atira and in the Downtown Eastside that women often face significant barriers in accessing co-ed services. It is not uncommon for women to have to line up with men who have caused or want to cause them harm; or to have to wait in the same room. Many women simply make the decision to forego services altogether. We expect it will not be uncommon for women to use the room following an experience(s) of trauma such as a physical or sexual assault or rape. Further, we expect women will use when they are feeling despondent about loss of contact and relationship with their children and or their intimate relationships and or other familial relationships. For these reasons, SisterSpace will embrace the following gender responsive principles:
Gender Responsive Principles
- Acknowledging that gender makes a difference.
- Creating an environment based on safety, respect, and dignity recognizing that safety = consistency and predictability across time.
- Developing policies, practices, and programs that are relational and promote healthy connections to children, family, significant others and the community.
- Addressing struggles with substance use, trauma, and mental wellness through comprehensive, integrated, and culturally relevant practices.
- Providing women with information and opportunities to improve their socioeconomic conditions.
- Establishing a system of comprehensive and collaborative community partnerships with other services.
Based on the overwhelming success of InSite, still the first and only supervised injection facility in North America, women at SisterSpace will have access to an injection room that can accommodate up to 15 women at any given time and where they can inject their own drugs under the supervision of staff trained in overdose intervention. Women have access to clean injection equipment, including syringes, sterile cookers, filters, water and tourniquets. The use of this equipment has been shown to reduce the spread of infectious diseases as well as reduce the number of serious soft-tissue infections, which intravenous drug users are susceptible to.
- [Audio] Roundhouse98.3 Vancouver – May 16, 2017 – Janice & Cory
- Metro News – Vancouver gets first women-only supervised injection site
- Global News – B.C.’s first overdose prevention site for women only opens on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside
- CKNW AM980 – Women-only safe injection site now open on Downtown Eastside
- iNews 880AM – Women-only safe injection site now open on Downtown Eastside
- CBC News – Women-only overdose prevention site opens in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside
- [Audio from CBC Early News Edition May 17, 2017] // CBC News – A women’s only supervised injection site opens in the DTES
- “Bed Bugs and Beyond”: An ethnographic analysis of North America’s first women-only supervised drug consumption site
- SisterSpace Evaluation Report – May 2017
- SisterSpace Evaluation Report – June 2017
- SisterSpace Evaluation Report – August 2017
- SisterSpace Program Update – August 2018
- SisterSpace Utilization-focused Evaluation Report – April 2021