With a few articles in regional Fraser Valley newspapers circulating, we want to share the important context behind a video that was sent to the Mayor of Chilliwack by a concerned constituent on Saturday, April 22nd.
As an organization that has been walking alongside marginalized communities throughout the Lower Mainland for over 80 years, after watching it and doing an internal investigation, we stand by the care and compassion shown by our UGM Staff Member.
Our Outreach Team Member acted in good faith in walking alongside a community member that they had developed a relationship with over several years, when they drove this individual to Chilliwack. The community member said he was to meet his landlord and sign a rental agreement.
There are several layers to the events that unfolded on Saturday morning that require a critical lens, we appreciate the space to share what actually happened:
- Despite knowing all the facts, the Mayor chose to send the video to the media with blatant inaccuracies.
- We do not drive community members anywhere unless there is a clear plan in place to support them upon arrival. For example, driving someone to a detox centre, a meeting with a prospective landlord, or to access other specified services.
- The staff member in the video has value beyond measure at UGM. The trust and instinct that they utilised with these two individuals has guided them well in many interactions with community members who otherwise have been dehumanized and demoralized.
- On Saturday morning, after unsuccessfully looking for parking directly in front of the house that the community member said they’d be renting a suite in, our outreach worker was absolutely unnerved after pulling over in what they felt was a suitable spot for the community members to hop out, when they were met with accusations and threats, all while being recorded.
- The video shows our staff member providing care and connection through a ride and meal to two men who they believed were going to meet a potential (private) landlord, and who chose to engage as minimally as possible with the individual who recorded the video.
- Throughout the entire process, our staff member ensured that these individuals’ privacy was being respected, acting in the best interest, and safety of the men we were serving.
On April 25th, after further investigation, we learned that the individual did not end up securing housing, had to stay in a shelter in Chilliwack overnight and was driven back to the original shelter he was staying at in Mission where he had supports in place to help him map out his next steps.
One of our Core Values at UGM is integrity. On Saturday morning, April 22nd, after speaking with the mayor, as we first began piecing together what we could without having seen the video, we were very concerned that vulnerable community members might be getting offers of housing in the Fraser Valley. We sent outreach workers on a walk through the Downtown Eastside, connecting with folks sleeping rough and asking if they had heard of, or were being offered, rides with promises of housing in the Fraser Valley. After speaking with multiple individuals, the claim that “people are being dropped off from other places” is unsubstantiated in our view.
It is very unfortunate how the Mayor and Council of Chilliwack decided to characterize this situation while knowing the full details of what happened. We understand that municipalities around the province are overwhelmed by the ongoing housing, affordability and homelessness crisis.
As an organization, we are committed to being part of the solution. The scale and scope of these challenges are too much for municipalities and individual organizations like UGM to manage. That is why we started our Mobile Mission for the Fraser Valley in 2019. By having an agile team on wheels, equipped with the necessities to address immediate needs while building trust, we are able to connect with folks entrenched within hidden and rural homeless camps to begin taking sustainable steps forward.
We see the Fraser Valley Mobile Mission as an extension of the great work that other organizations are doing and we work closely with them to coordinate efforts. This is a case of an Outreach Worker having a huge heart for the people we serve. Believing someone when they said that they had housing. And helping them take steps to move their life forward.
UGM is deeply committed to serving each and every person without discrimination across Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, and we are grateful for our caring staff who continually walk alongside our community.
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