Dustup may have helped women

West End TIMES

June 11, 1999

Staff Reporter

THE CONTROVERSY surrounding the funding of cellular phones for prostitutes may have had a positive effect, says Jamie Lee Hamilton, who runs Grandma's House, the agency distributing the phones.

A public outcry met the announcement earlier this year that the provincial government would provide funds to equip sex trade workers, particularly those in the dangerous Downtown Eastside, with phones to call 911. The government backed down on the funding and a private, anonymous donor was found to pick up the tab.

Though she was frustrated by the hoopla around the issue, Hamilton says the publicity may have had a positive side effect in deterring violence-prone men from preying on women. Efforts to trace more than 20 women who have been missing from the Downtown Eastside have also focused public attention on the matter.

"I'm hopeful that some of the initiatives to date may have had a deterrent effect," she says.

The controversy was based on the incorrect assumption that the cell phones were to be fully operational, she added. The phones will only call one number--911--she said.

Hamilton criticized the Province newspaper and the provincial Liberal leader Gordon Campbell for turning the program into a controversy.

"Put the prostitution issue aside," Hamilton says. "This is about violence against women."

Twenty telephones have been distributed so far and Grandma's House will evaluate how the program is working before distributing 80 more.

Relations between community activists and the Vancouver Police have warmed in recent weeks after Hamilton and others criticized the way the police were dealing with the cases of the missing women.

More recently, though, Hamilton says the police plan to create a poster to publicize the cases is a step in the right direction, though she thinks her agency should have been consulted on the wording.

Although she hopes they won't be needed, Hamilton says Grandma's House has compiled files in recent weeks on sex trade workers, including their photos, personal information and their common strolls. The information could prove helpful if a woman breaks from her routine unexpectedly.

The Case of the missing Vancouver Sex Workers



Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016