At this time, there are many people and issues that require immediate attention. Charities have adjusted the way they operate on a daily basis and many have had to make significant shifts to fulfill their particular missions. Unfortunately, many charities may not weather this storm.
Our intention with this series is to share updates from a spectrum of charitable organizations to garner attention and inspire support for those in need.
Charity name: Union Gospel Mission
Core Purpose & Mandate
In a world that’s broken by poverty and addiction, we are determined to offer restoration to those in need. We do this by coming alongside men, women, and children to provide a hand up towards hope and recovery. We do this by providing, without discrimination:
- Meals, shelter, outreach and chaplaincy services that relieve suffering and renew hope
- Life recovery programs that offer freedom from addictive lifestyles
- Education and job preparation that equip for successful living
- Affordable housing that fosters community and personal contribution
- Preventative programs that build healthy families
How is your organization impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The coronavirus is affecting our homeless neighbours in difficult and dramatic ways. Not surprisingly, many of our guests have compromised immune systems and pre-existing health conditions. Add to this to precarious living situations and limited access to basic needs like food, hygiene, and medical care on a regular basis, and they are clearly among the most vulnerable in our community.
UGM is ramping up our services, so that people already on the edge, can hold on. We’ve significantly increased daily meals at our downtown location by closing our dining hall but offering hot meals out the door in to-go containers. Hundreds of people at every meal, many new faces, lined up down the back alley.
Many of our working guests have been laid off from part-time or hourly work. The local community centre has shut down a breakfast program that fed 485 neighbourhood kids. Numerous other charitable service-providers have also shut down or decreased service.
In a neighborhood where the median income is only $12,000 (annually!) these changes hit families hard. Families are struggling to cope with schools being shut down. The stress and strain can be overwhelming. Parents, are trying to figure out how to provide enough food for their families and keep their children occupied. Our Women and Families staff are dramatically increasing their casework, working one-on-one with families in need, providing more emergency hampers and more crisis grants to help with rent, groceries, and other essential needs. Previously, in a typical week we would have given 9 or 10 hampers and this week alone we are on pace for 50.
Our shelter is still in operation and at full capacity each night. We are fortunate our 72 shelter beds are in smaller rooms (rather than one large space that everyone shares) – designed specifically with dignity and illness control in mind. We have opened up an additional space to try and space out shelter guests even more.
How have your fundraising plans changed?
Our services and programs have only grown during this time so our fundraising is even more critical now. As an organization that is solely funded through the support of donors, fundraising is what allows us to respond. In terms of how things have changed:
- We have increased our digital campaigns through email to ensure that the community knows how we are responding
- We have joined with the Salvation Army in a campaign to raise funds for both organizations. UGM and the Salvation Army have long worked together to care for those who desperately need it – exchanging resources, coordinating through case management, etc. And in these unusual and unprecedented times, collaboration is even more important than ever as this is bigger than any one organization. Joining together allows us to expand the reach of this campaign and share the costs of the campaign which will ultimately mean more relief provided for those in our community who are suffering.
- We are adjusting the normal ways that we would have interacted with donors and finding ways to move information and story sharing online.
- We send hundreds of kids to camp every summer and that is a big fundraiser in the spring. Most camps have not yet made decisions on their summer programs so we are adjusting the fundraising messaging to allow room for the possibility of camp not happening.
- While UGM is providing increased emergency services, we have unfortunately already noticed a drop in donations, due to individuals and businesses experiencing hardship and we anticipate more. We have had to close our Thrift Store which is also a loss in revenue to UGM.
If there is one story or message you would like to share with our community, what would it be?
The need is great, but the compassion of this city is greater!
It is a privilege to continue doing the work that so many in this City care about. That compassion is helping people like Roger.
Rachel, one of the UGM team, met “Roger” an older man almost 70. It was his first meal ever at UGM. He recently returned to Vancouver for his landscaping job but got laid off due to COVID-19. He said he’s very scared right now, as he’s never been unemployed before and the prospect of no income really shook him.
His employer suggested he apply for EI but he wasn’t sure he’d qualify because he’d been out of the country. He was also hesitant because he “doesn’t want to ask for a handout”. Rachel assured him this is a unique situation and lots of people have found themselves needing help right now. Roger kept mentioning how great the lunch was (meatballs, mashed potatoes) and now that he had a ‘belly full of food’ and some encouragement, he could go try to find out more about EI.
I’m scared. I’ve never been unemployed, never needed help. This was my first ever meal at UGM… and it was great. I have a belly full of food, and after talking to staff, I’m feeling encouraged.
– Roger*, landscaper and senior, laid off due to COVID-19
*Name changed to protect guest’s identity
How can one support your organization most effectively?
The most effective way to support our organization is to consider providing immediate assistance to help us with the COVID-19 crisis. This generosity will ensure UGM remains a steady source of support for our guests in need, when everything else around them is whirling with change and uncertainty.
Can donations be transferred electronically? If so, how?
Yes, absolutely. Donations can be made here – https://www.ugm.ca/mygift/
Additional ways of giving (gifts of shares for example) can be found here – https://www.ugm.ca/more-ways-to-give/