Sunday, February 20, 2005


Underbelly News
Downtown Eastside


Hi All!

On Tuesday, Feb 15, City council, after lobbying by Headlines Theatre director David Diamond and Sex Trade Advocate, Jamie Lee Hamilton, and with the vision of Councilor Tim Louis, decided its time for council to look into the possibility of hiring a homeless/sex trade advocate for the city.

Some of you may be wondering why these two components have been attached together?

The reasons these two areas have been linked is that homelessness is an issue that affects both transsexual/transgender, men and women. Ditto for the sex trade.

It was important not to play politics with these two major and vitally important issues. Quite often, these issues overlap. Its long overdue forf addressing these complex and escalating problems in our city. As well, there are gaping holes in service delivery and this needs to be reconciled by the city.

For instance, during the extreme cold weather snap, prostitutes were left out in the cold and this even though the city by its own estimates, projects $350,000.00 per year into funded groups. As an advocate, I was extremely concerned and phoned around to three funded survival sex trade organizations and found them all either closed or not having the ability to extend their hours of operation so that sex trade workers could get out from the harsh cold which enveloped Vancouver..

Another area of re-view is that a couple of women's task groups have been initiated by the city, with one committee receiving $200,000.00 per year to 'study' the sex trade issue. Once again, transgendered and male sex trade workers have been overlooked and left out since these groups are female only based. Moreover, the groups are mandated to address women's only issues. There is no representation from either the trans or male population on the steering committee of the Sex Trade Task Group. Again, this shows a dramatic gap in how the city responds to the health and safety crises affecting both men, women and transsexual/transgendered sex workers.

It is hoped that the City will recognize the lack of over-all planning and insight which went into recommending the creation of, in particular, the sex trade task group.

It should be noted at the council meeting on Feb 15, the city manager who is paid $260,000.00 a year addressed council, stating she was not comfortable looking into the feasibility of the city hiring a sex trade/homeless advocate. She felt it should be part of the mandate of the women only sex trade task group that the city endorsed and supported.

Once again, either the city manager doesn't understand that these two keys issues of homelessness and the sex trade extend beyond being women only concerns. Perhaps, hopefully, a councilor or two can take her aside and point out her somewhat flawed analysis. In any event, council in a 9-1 vote rejected the city manager's recommendation and instead, affirmed and passed a motion 9-1 for a report back from her, outlining the necessity of hiring a homelessness/sex trade advocate position.

In other news on this front, Change the Code Canada held a very successful event on the evening of Feb 15. The evening was to pay tribute to both former city councilor Lynne Kennedy and Shelby Tracy Tom who was brutally murdered just over a year and a half ago. The night brought together sex trade activists, politicians and prominent citizens of the city.

Lynne Kennedy who sits on the police board brought forward good news at the tribute. The VPD has endorsed a recommendation from Lynne that the province set up a 1-800 line to report missing persons. This was a result of a gap in service that impacted the missing women's cases a few years back. Thanks Lynne!

So in the next few months, please dear viewers look out for news supporting calls for the city to create a Sex Trade/Homelessness Advocate position.

Jamie Lee Hamilton