Union Gospel Mission Increases Services for Community During Health Crisis
While many non-profit and charitable organizations are forced to close their doors and restrict services because of COVID-19, Union Gospel Mission is working to increase meal provisions and other social services to fill the gap in support for homeless and other at-risk populations in Vancouver.
Most of us are familiar with the social distancing recommendations put in place by public health officials. For those who have shelter, achieving these standards is plausible. However, for the homeless population, social and physical distancing is much more difficult. Facing barriers to adequate shelter and nutrition, many homeless people have compromised immune systems and pre-existing health conditions that increase their fatality risk should they contract COVID-19. Without a means to regularly wash their hands, access face masks or other PPE, they are challenged in practicing basic measures to protect themselves from the virus.
What’s more, the homeless population is growing as many lose work due to COVID-19 business closures. Needless to say, outbreaks in the homeless community are devastating.
Responding to the Pandemic
Knowing that the homeless community is in a dire situation with the spread of COVID-19, UGM is taking extra measures to ensure that as many people as possible can access basic needs. Although supplies are scarce and some of UGM’s non-essential services such as the thrift shop have been closed, the staff and volunteers continue to provide food and shelter to people in need. While many organizations have scaled back their offerings, UGM has upped their meal provisions by 33%.
For the benefit of both parties, UGM has limited staff on-site and is requiring that the staff members who are present wear face masks and shields to avoid potentially spreading any illness to guests. UGM continues to screen guests for possible signs of the virus and are working with health authorities to assist those who may show symptoms.
Additional prevention measures include having guests receive meals by carryout method rather than gathering in the dining hall as per usual. Meals are still served hot and in biodegradable containers so guests can receive nourishment and lessen their environmental impact at the same time.
Volunteer shifts in non-essential areas have been halted, and those volunteers are offered the opportunity to work within essential programmes like meal preparation. Staff are working from home or helping out in limited in-person capacity.
How Your Business Can Help
Although UGM has increased their meal service, the fact remains that key supplies are needed now more than ever. The most effective and immediate way to make an impact is through monetary donations. This allows UGM the flexibility to respond quickly and put food on the table for those in need through measures such as emergency food hampers.
In terms of donation amounts, as little as $3.29 from an individual provides a meal to a person in need. For businesses looking to donate, a $150 donation provides 45 meals, $250 provides 75 meals, and so on. Every dollar matters.
Cash is tight for many businesses at this time, and if donations aren’t feasible, UGM also gratefully accepts emergency care supplies. To see which supplies are needed, see UGM’s supply list.
To stay up to date with UGM’s efforts, email corporategiving@UGM.ca and chat with a team member. UGM’s Twitter account is dedicated to supplying updated, informational articles about what’s going on, as well as sharing people’s stories and highlighting their current needs. To see the programmes offered and to get to know the staff, check out their Instagram and Facebook accounts.
Anyone is welcome to direct message these pages and UGM’s Social Media Officer will respond quickly.
Union Gospel Mission’s History
Union Gospel Mission began in 1940, when unemployment and homelessness rates were at a high as Vancouver’s economy was still recovering after the Great Depression. Bob Stacey, in his twenties at the time, was inspired by mission work he saw in New York and started charitable initiatives that could benefit the people in Vancouver in a similar way. He started his operation in a small apartment in Gastown, where he served 60 meals a day to people in need and also housed up to six people at a time.
Built on this history, Union Gospel Mission has grown into seven different locations across Vancouver and serves upwards of 800 meals a day and offers other types of assistance, including alcohol and drug recovery programmes, stabilization programmes for mothers and children, career development counseling, affordable housing, and more.