Metro Vancouver has among North America’s largest sex worker populations. Similarly to people in mainstream employment, many people in the sex industry enjoy their work, while others may wish to transition to other types of employment. However, unlike career transitions in mainstream industries, sex workers can face complex barriers to leaving sex work. Due to intersecting factors including stigma and criminalization, some sex workers may have gaps in their education or employment history, or may be reluctant to disclose sex work involvement for fear of discrimination. Some may not have access to essential housing, substance use or mental health services which could enable an employment transition, or may have a criminal record which restricts new career avenues. In addition to the many barriers to exiting sex work, there is a lack of services explicitly designed for sex workers who wish to transition to independent and mainstream employment.
The Metro Vancouver Consortium (Consortium) identified this service gap in employment services and developed the five-year Transitions program. The Consortium includes four member organizations which support sex workers of all genders and backgrounds across the lower mainland: Aboriginal Front Door Society (AFDS), Health Initiative for Men (HIM), PACE Society (PACE), and WISH Drop-In Centre Society (WISH). Previous member, Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS), is currently not part of the Consortium; however, BWSS continues to offer the Transitions program to its participants.
Funded by Public Safety Canada with contributions from the City of Vancouver, Transitions is a program which supports sex workers who wish to decrease their involvement in sex work or exit sex work. Through a continuum of service delivery, Transitions aims to connect participants to programs and supportive employment opportunities; decrease systemic barriers; and actively reduce the stigma of sex work in Metro Vancouver.
Ultimately, we want participants to feel safe, healthy, and independent.