Serving Greater Vancouver & the Fraser Valley
Union Gospel Mission

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by Angelos Kyriakides

Being homeless is hard enough, but during the cold season the stakes are higher than usual. Coastal rains make the situation worse by soaking many on the streets who have no easy way to dry themselves. Add to this our freezing temperatures and it’s not hard to see the challenges of being homeless in winter in the Lower Mainland. With a record high homeless population in the Lower Mainland, the city is bracing for another winter that for many, could have a devastating effect. Aside from an opioid crisis that doesn’t seem to be slowing down, the 2017 Homeless Report noted that compared with 2015, 30 percent more people are sleeping on our streets this year. It will be a trying and challenging time for many throughout the Lower Mainland.

Christian missions are on the front lines providing much needed aid to those in need. Many may think homelessness is a Downtown Vancouver issue only – but the truth is, significant numbers of homeless people were recorded in Surrey, Langely, the Tri-Cities, as well as other local communities.

The Light Magazine reached out to a number of local missions in the Lower Mainland to ask how our readers can help support them as they provide desperately needed assistance during the winter. Beyond providing much needed financial support, here are the needs of some of our local missions. In truth their are all similar.

Union Gospel Mission (Downtown Vancouver) is asking for people to donate lightly worn winter gear, waterproof boots or shoes, waterproof jackets, gloves, socks, sweaters, toques, new underwear and new long underwear. These items can be donated to UGM’s Thrift Store at 601 E Hastings. UGM also has lots of volunteer opportunities for those who’d like to spend time at the Mission. www.ugm.ca

NightShift Ministries (Downtown Surrey/Whalley) is looking for winter clothing and the following food items: juice packs, apple cider powder, chocolate bars (no nuts), hot chocolate, coffee, creamer, canned fish, peanut butter and sugar. Volunteer opportunities are also available. www.nightshiftministries.org

RAN Mission (downtown Chilliwack) is looking for items like blankets, socks, underwear, toques, coats, jackets and peanut butter. RAN also has two Christmas day meals at 2 and 5 pm and is looking for volunteers to help with these as well. www.ranmission.ca

The Salvation Army Gateway of Hope (Langley) needs the following items: socks, winter clothes, gloves, hand warmers, toques, toothpaste and toothbrushes, mouthwash without alcohol, and larger bottles of shampoo or bodywash. They’re also looking for help with the Kettle Campaign which seeks to raise money for their ministries. It’s running now until Dec. 23, Monday to Saturday, between 10 am and 6 pm. They’re looking for people who can help with either 2 or 3 hour shifts and even if you’re only available for one shift this season they say that still is a major help. www.gatewayofhope.ca

The Harvest Project (North Vancouver) lists their most needed items as baked beans, canned vegetables, canned meat, canned fish, pasta sauce – tomato or cream, canned tomatoes, peanut butter and spreads, canned fruit and fruit cups, granola bars, cookies and crackers. Clothing donation bins are also located at the rear of their building at 1073 Roosevelt Crescent in North Vancouver. Aside from donations they’re also looking for people who can volunteer as grocery drivers, kitchen helpers, receptionists, or work in their Thrift Store. Moreover they’re looking for people who might be able to “adopt a family”, start a fundraiser or run a food drive. www.harvestproject.org

Food on the Corner (Downtown Vancouver) is looking for anyone who can drive or assist drivers, make or serve soup, sandwiches or coffee, as well as carry out administrative tasks (even from home). People can also help by praying and evangelizing on the street with them or donating food or soup and sandwich-making supplies. www.foodonthecorner.ca 

Surrey Urban Mission (Downtown Surrey) is very busy this time of year and is looking for extra help with serving in and out of the kitchen. The following donations are also highly sought after- socks, warm clothes, jackets, blankets and sleeping bags. www.sumsplace.ca

Mission Possible (Downtown Vancouver) is looking for volunteers who can assist at their Saturday Power Breakfasts or Coffee House. They also run two social enterprises that provide jobs for people in the community and are interested in people with trade skills or talents that may want to use to help. www.mission-possible.ca 

Since the death of Dawn Bergman (also known as Tracy) in 2008, the City of Vancouver, along with BC Housing, has been running Emergency Weather Response shelters that open in various locations when the temperature drops to unsafe levels.

Two organizations in Abbotsford are also looking for volunteers to help with their EWR Programs. Gateway Church is looking for volunteers who may be able to help with their night shifts and Cyrus Center is interested in finding a (paid) van driver. You can contact Gateway Church at jvanderheide@shaw.ca and Cyrus Center at 604-859-5773.

This is not a complete list of places that could use your support, look around your own community to find ways to help those less fortunate this winter.

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