When Laura Dilley started working with PACE, an organization that delivers social services to sex workers in Vancouver, the non-profit was squatting in a condemned building in the Downtown Eastside.
“It was in such bad repair that it was uninhabitable,” Dilley said.
The organization had just one source of funding – the City of Vancouver – and had been operating without an executive director for several years. It was down to two employees.
But Dilley, who had studied education and had worked with homeless people in Ottawa, was inspired by the work PACE was doing and decided to take the job. PACE is a peer-driven organization, which means the front-line workers have themselves been sex workers. The non-profit offers help with a wide range of issues, including safety, housing and getting a job.
PACE has also been active in advocating for reform of Canada’s prostitution laws to decriminalize sex work.
“I love the peer-driven model, and PACE has been around for 22 years, and I thought what a travesty to let this fall by the wayside,” Dilley said.
Dilley and her team aggressively pursued funding and worked on communicating that the work the organization does aligns with public health research. PACE was able to get funding from the B.C. government, the Vancouver Foundation and Green Shield Canada. The non-profit has also found a permanent home in the Downtown Eastside, a not-insignificant challenge because the area faces increasingly higher property values and rents.
“Many of the women who work at PACE had been homeless, so they have some really compelling stories about when they first came to PACE [and] were accessing services, then they started to volunteer, then they got a 10-hour-a-week position, then they worked their way up and built skills,” Dilley said.
“Now we have 10 employees, they’re off the street, they’re working 9 to 5.”
Join us to celebrate the 2015 Forty under under 40 Awards January 27, 2016 at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For tickets and event info visit www.biv.com/events/40under40.