In 1940, Vancouver’s economy was still recovering after the Great Depression and unemployment and homelessness rates were at a high. Bob Stacey, a young man in his twenties, was inspired by mission work he’d witnessed in New York and believed similar charitable initiatives could benefit the people in Vancouver as well. So, he began raising money. His operation started off in a small apartment in Gastown where he served sixty meals a day and housed six people at a time.
Today, UGM is comprised of seven different locations across metro Vancouver. Now serving up to 800 meals a day, the reach and scope have grown tremendously. There are programmes for every potential bump in the road life lends, including alcohol and drug recovery programmes, stabilization programmes for moms and babies, career development counseling, affordable housing—and that’s just a glimpse. The original mission to feed the hungry, change lives, and transform people’s opportunities, however, is still held firmly. The primary goals are to help others overcome poverty, homelessness, and addiction.
Not Your Average Charity
What makes UGM unique is its belief in a “continuum of care.” UGM understands that the services and assistance required to help people transition out of homelessness and poverty aren’t transactional. Not only focused on meeting one-time basic needs, UGM has programmes that foster growth and elevation for the whole person: body and mind. Here’s just a few of UGM’s core offerings:
Homeless Shelter: The homeless shelter houses up to 72 individuals at a time. Guests have an opportunity to meet with a case manager who learns about their unique situation, challenges, and goals. Guests then receive a personalized step-by-step plan to get them on the road to a healthier, more fulfilling life. This may include involvement in multiple programmes, such as housing, job-finding, or alcohol and drug recovery.
Street-Level Outreach: Rather than waiting for people to walk through its doors, UGM also employs a more direct method of ministering to Vancouver’s needy. Street-level outreach is where volunteers actually take to the streets, either in a rescue vehicle called the Mobile Mission or on foot, to offer food, warm clothing, survival gear, and hope. This unique method of outreach allows UGM to access the neediest of individuals right where they are, even on the fringes of metro Vancouver.
Alcohol and Drug Recovery Programmes for Men and Women: The men’s drug and alcohol recovery programme is a six-month-long comprehensive process that includes a place to live, counseling, a structured course, and aftercare.
There is a similar recovery programme for women, as well as a stabilization programme for moms and babies that includes full 24-hour support, so they do not need to be separated.
The Impact in Vancouver
Those who work at, volunteer with, or donate to UGM know their efforts will improve and possibly save someone’s life. Each contribution directly impacts people who need it the most, often helping end long-time suffering and hopelessness.
In fact, many former clients (who have made full recoveries) become volunteers themselves. Powerful testimonies from former clients detail the transition from sleeping under a bridge to enjoying gelato on carefree Saturdays. They understand the harsh reality of a destitute existence and are passionate about sharing the possibility of a better life with others.
Union Gospel Mission’s Events and Fundraisers
As a nonprofit, UGM relies solely on the support of the community to operate. There are several ways to engage and work with UGM:
Companies can encourage employees to donate time or resources by incentivizing and/or matching donations.
Some companies will fund an entire programme and send employees to volunteer throughout the year, as with the Children’s Outreach programme, for example. These types of corporate partnerships are very valuable, not only to UGM, but to the corporations themselves and their employees who are able to experience firsthand the benefit of their efforts.
Physical donations are always appreciated.
For more participation ideas, visit the Take Action page.
Continuing the Mission
Union Gospel Mission is a far-reaching charity doing incredible work in Vancouver. Thousands of lives have been touched and improved by one or more of their many generous programmes. The unique commitment to the street-level outreach and culture of giving back is exactly what makes it such a strong force of good.
Help spread the word and shine light on this incredible organization by sharing the page on Facebook. You can also tag them in pictures of your next volunteering project or food drive on Instagram or tweet your encouragement to the volunteers and organizers @UGM.