Imagine living a paycheque away from becoming homeless in Vancouver. You're working hard to pay your rent and grocery bills - which are rising far too fast. Without warning, your landlord gives you notice to move by the end of the month.
Everywhere you look, there are no rental units available within your budget. The end of the month creeps up and suddenly you find yourself standing outside your building with your belongings—with no place to call home.
This is one of many ways someone could end up homeless and it could happen to anyone. Homelessness can’t be solved by one person, but one person can still make a big impact. Thanks to compassionate folks like you and organizations like Union Gospel Mission, people in crisis can get the support they need.
You’re probably thinking: And just how can I help? Well, let’s dive into 7 ways you can make a difference for a neighbour:
1. Kindness Comes In All Shapes and Sizes
Every gesture of kindness helps. No matter how big or small, a donation to non-profit organizations who help folks experiencing homelessness is one of the best ways that you can make an impact! These organizations can properly connect people to basic necessities like food and shelter, and other important resources like employment supports and cultural programs.
One great organization to support is the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society, who has been serving the Indigenous community for over 50 years through health, social service, and cultural programs!
2. Always In Style
Helping others is always in style! When you donate your pre-loved clothing to local Thrift Stores and organizations, you aren't just helping the environment—you’re helping people too. Some organizations take donated items and provide them directly to folks who need them the most. For others, they may distribute them to their stores to provide everyone with the dignity of an affordable shopping experience.
At UGM’s Thrift Store, we not only employ people who’ve recently completed our recovery programs, but we also distribute donations, free of charge, to our community members before putting anything on the sales floor. We then provide a low-cost shopping experience in the Downtown Eastside, and 100% of the proceeds go back into UGM’s life-changing programs and services.
3. Hungry To Help
People who are experiencing homelessness or poverty often can’t cover their grocery bills, and may choose to seek food support through local food exchanges.food exchanges are a dignifying way for low-income individuals to shop for low-cost, healthy food options.
Quest Food Exchange is a non-profit organization that works to redirect unsold healthy food that would end up in landfill. Almost all of Quest’s food is donated by their local food partners from across British Columbia and they provide affordable groceries at a reduced cost across the Lower Mainland – Burnaby, Surrey, North Vancouver, East Vancouver, and the Downtown Eastside.
If you are a food producer, distributor, commercial market, restaurant, or a local grower, consider donating excess inventory! If you’re an individual, you can make a monetary donation to support Quest.
4. Time Is Precious
Sharing your time by volunteering is arguably one of the most direct ways you can help make a difference in someone’s life. By consistently volunteering, you can help build meaningful relationships and encourage our neighbors as they overcome their unique challenges. When you truly get to know someone, this can often help strip away some of the stereotypes that you may have developed before.
Feeling inspired? There are so many organizations that provide volunteer opportunities, like The Dugout in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. They have a community living room where people can spend time inside, sit down for a hot meal, coffee and snacks, and other baked goods donated by local businesses. If you live elsewhere in Vancouver, consider volunteering with a similar organization in your community!
5. Ready, Set, Fundraise!
Often when we think of fundraising, we think of big events like walk-a-thons or galas that end up raising thousands, if not millions, of dollars. But raising funds to support your favorite charity doesn’t have to be a big complicated event.
Whether you are hosting a bake sale, challenging yourself to bike every day for a month, or pledging your birthday – you can raise funds by doing what you love. Start your own online fundraising campaign today for UGM on my.UGM.ca, and rally loved ones together to help end homelessness.
6. Your Voice Matters
The most effective way to make sure that your concerns about neighbors experiencing homelessness are heard is by reaching out to your local MLA and MP, to encourage your elected officials to get involved and make it a priority. Write a letter to your local reps emphasizing the need to alleviate homelessness and poverty in your community, and vote with these issues in mind when there is an election!
7. Get to Know Your Neighbour
You never know what someone else is going through. And people overcoming poverty or homelessness often have experienced trauma and other difficult circumstances in their lives. So when you encounter someone, it’s important to approach them with a smile, and from a place of empathy and respect.
Take a few minutes to stop and listen to their story. Introduce yourself—ask their name, how they're doing, or if they need anything. Often, the best thing you can do in the moment is to point them to organizations like UGM, Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre or Covenant House that can better meet their immediate needs and support long-term needs.
Take Action Now
Congratulations, you made it to the end of our list! Now, we challenge you to take action with one of these 7 ways.
If you want to continue learning about how you can help neighbors overcome homelessness, poverty, and addiction, or if you’re looking for inspiring stories from our community members, subscribe to UGM's email newsletter below.
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