There is no good that comes from losing dozens of your co-workers into the darkness of the unknown. But if Sue Davis, a sex-trade worker, digs deep, she sees a glimmer of light. Twenty-five kilometres away from the Downtown Eastside, where the drug-addicted and the sex-trade workers (often one and the same) still linger, a courthouse in the New Westminster suburb of Vancouver has begun hearing evidence into the murder of six women. The details have been so graphic about what allegedly happened in a mobile trailer on a Port Coquitlam pig farm that local newspapers have been putting banners above stories warning readers of the content. One television report this week featured a counsellor with advice on what to tell children who ask questions about the trial of Robert 'Willie' Pickton, who has been charged with 26 counts of murder and is currently facing six of those charges. His name is never raised in the Downtown Eastside among the women who still live and work there. Ms Davis, an activist in the sex-trade community who knew some of the more than 50 women who disappeared over a two-decade period, said the overpowering emotion that remains is guilt. 'You have to understand that many of the women suffer from survival guilt. Did I somehow contribute to this? Should I have done something or not done something? Why am I here and my friends aren't?' Women still go missing, some never to be found. Ms Davis says there are the rare stories about women who escape Downtown Eastside and begin a new life elsewhere, far away. But who is to say instead that a body is not somewhere, that it will never be discovered? Kate Gibson, executive director of Wish, a drop-in centre for sex-trade workers, said that despite the Pickton trial, the unmistakable reality is that happy endings are not as common as the tragic ones. 'I think there was hope there would be changes afterwards, but not a lot has changed,' says Ms Gibson. 'These women are still in a terribly vulnerable situation. They're still coming down here in desperation.' It took years of lobbying before Vancouver police took seriously the rising number of women who disappeared from the streets. When the realisation of what had happened sank in, pledges came in from all levels of government that there would be changes. But for the people who still work the streets and those who try to help them, the offers of help have changed little. More affordable housing, shorter waiting times to get into job training or addiction recovery programmes could have made some difference, but the improvements and the impact have been negligible. Nevertheless, there has been a shift in attitudes. Police are more responsive and the force's missing persons' unit has been strengthened in numbers and is more visible at street level. Ms Davis says she never thought a decade ago that she could get a meeting with the mayor to discuss issues about how to make life safer for sex-trade workers. With the trial expected to last for at least a year, there is still time to keep the plight of the Downtown Eastside in the spotlight. In this current darkness, that qualifies as hope.