If you follow the news, it can seem that the only thing on the rise these days is adversity. From inflation to the opioid crisis, climate change to homelessness, our communities are facing very real challenges. When only bad news is trending, things can feel discouraging.
But that’s not the whole story: healing is on the rise too. In this Annual Report, you’ll see how your ever-increasing faithfulness is meeting people amidst their hardships and helping them build transformed lives. Together, we can turn the page on adversity and restore hope.
In the News: Inflation
Inflation has been a hot topic this year — and with good reason. Whether it’s the gas in our tanks or the price of our groceries, it’s been impossible to miss the rising prices of everyday items.
While inflation impacts us all, low-income families are hit hardest. This year, families in the bottom 20% of incomes1 saw their disposable income decline by 5.7%. When costs rise, people with little have to do even more with less.
Inflation makes the poverty cycle that much harder to escape.
On the Rise: Intentional Generosity
Part of the answer to economic pressure is abundant giving. In times when people don’t have enough, providing a meal, a hamper of groceries, or a new set of clothes can ensure that families can cover their bills and put food on the table. This year, you gave generously, enabling UGM to ease the stressors of everyday life for people in our communities. Thank you!
In the News: Climate Change
Heat domes. Atmospheric rivers. Polar vortexes. Weather is undoubtedly changing, and as our planet warms, we are seeing rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and more intense heat waves.
Environmental extremes are an added layer of hardship for people surviving and navigating homelessness. Without safe shelter, our neighbours are being exposed to more volatile weather systems year round.
On the Rise: Unconditional Welcome
It’s only together that we can weather climate events. While many across the globe work to address the big picture of climate change, you are providing life-saving refuge and safety to people in Metro Vancouver.
This year, our Cornerstone Drop-in Centre and New Westminster Resource Centre acted as cooling stations during the summer, and a source for cold-weather gear and much-needed warmth in the winter. Through your faithful compassion, you are reminding people that they can come in and find community at UGM. Thank you!
In the News: Housing
With low-vacancy rates, unaffordable rents, and increasing homelessness in urban centres, housing has consistently been front-page news this year. Housing is a basic human right, but for many people, it is their primary struggle.
Over 3,634 people are experiencing homelessness in Metro Vancouver.2 For many, securing housing is a multifaceted challenge, requiring them to also overcome unemployment, mental health struggles, unaddressed addiction, or a lack of access to application support.
On the Rise: Homecoming
As governments wrestle with how to address homelessness on a systems level, UGM has been working to ensure those who need shelter have it. Your support keeps UGM’s transitional and low-income housing affordable for tenants, and our new Women & Families Centre has been giving a home to mothers and their children.
We know that housing is just one step towards transformation. For many in our communities, home needs to include holistic support as they rebuild their lives after seasons of hardship. Here, people are welcomed into healing recovery programming, building bright futures on a firm foundation of belonging.
Because of your compassionate care, homecoming is on the horizon for so many!
Amidst real hardship, your partnership has given rise to hope. Tianna and Jason’s stories are two examples of how people are finding their way forward, overcoming adversity and experiencing transformation.
There was a time in Jason’s life when he didn’t receive much encouragement. “It was quite chaotic,” he says of his childhood home. “It was an acceptable environment for drinking and doing drugs. What was not accepted was to go get help.”
The child of a residential school survivor, Jason turned to alcohol and theft to help cope with intergenerational trauma. After a stint in prison, he returned home to find his family had disappeared. “I was devastated,” he shares. On his own, Jason couchsurfed and slept on the street — even when he spent time with family, he struggled to feel wanted. “They didn’t kick me out. But they let me know they didn’t really like me being around.”
Jason’s first encounter with UGM came many years later, and through an unexpected avenue: his kids. In the early 2010s, he joined his ex-girlfriend at one of UGM’s family holiday meals. Her children were part of the Eastsiders After School Program, so one of Jason’s sons joined too. Jason didn’t know anything at the time about our Men’s Recovery Program, but he knew he needed a change. “I was at that point where I was just gonna drink myself to death or I needed to go get help. It was one or the other.”
Jason courageously enrolled in UGM’s recovery program in 2018, but it was a second attempt in 2021 where he really saw a difference. Now in aftercare, Jason is choosing a new path for himself, supported by his caring team. “My counsellors pour a lot of their resources into me, they’re just phenomenal. The aftercare program here is one-of-a-kind, I’ve never had anything like this before.”
That ongoing support has allowed Jason to reenter the work field, solidifying his recovery foundation. He earned his Building Service Worker certification thanks to a UGM tuition grant, and gained hands-on experience through a six-month internship on UGM’s Maintenance Team. He now works as a custodian, and lives in UGM supportive housing.
His journey of transformation has led Jason to some deeply healing reconciliation. He recently reconnected with his oldest son after over five years of separation. “He called me ‘Dad’ instead of ‘Jason,’” he says. “We struck up quite the conversation; I saw pictures of my grandkids. I’m really proud of him, and he’s very proud of me. It still kind of floors me that people want me around.”
While he still experiences ups and downs, Jason has rooted himself in his community. He drops by UGM’s Cornerstone several times a week to visit newcomers to the recovery program, to encourage them and remind himself where he started. “My Creator put me on this path for a reason,” he says. “It's really rewarding living nearby, because I can come in and pass on what UGM gave me to somebody who’s still suffering. I can carry the message of hope.”
Tianna has always been great with kids. A former preschool teacher and mom to eight-year-old Asher, connecting with children comes naturally to her, and she loves making kids feel valued.
Tianna grew up in Saskatchewan, and it wasn’t until her twenties that substance abuse became part of her story — and interrupted her life as a teacher and a mom. “I was very codependent, and I got into a bad relationship. And then that led to domestic abuse,” she says. “I was 27, and I had had enough of feeling pain and sorrow — I wanted to not feel that pain.”
After turning to crystal meth to dull her hurt, Tianna lost custody of Asher and moved to Vancouver with the hope that geographical change would help change her. She spent the next three years bouncing between hotels and Airbnbs, living with grief. “During that time, I lost a grandmother, a cousin, and a partner. I was in a really dark place in my life. I didn’t know where to go,” she recalls. “Eventually, I was done. I was willing to do anything to get me out of that place.”
After surviving an overdose in November of 2021, Tianna began her recovery journey, and in July, moved into UGM’s Women & Families Centre. Here, she’s been participating in group classes and building supportive friendships. “The aftercare program at The Sanctuary is amazing,” she says. “It’s helped me to make goals and follow through on them. The community that I feel when I'm sitting in those rooms — whether I’m in Personal Development or Trauma Parenting class — is incredible.”
Aftercare isn't the only way UGM is helping Tianna rebuild her life — thanks to the family-sized units in the Women & Families Centre, she was able to reunite with her son in August! “One of the UGM staff — Sarah — she advocated for me and my journey,” Tianna says. “She wrote a letter to the Ministry communicating all that I was doing. She fought for Asher to be here, and that really meant a lot.”
Asher and Tianna now live together after three years apart, in a place that feels like home. He attends the Eastsiders After School Program, enabling Tianna to pursue her dreams of returning to meaningful work and settling down. “I would like to get a degree in social work — I’d like to be out there helping other women.” Then she adds, “Also, Asher and I would really like to get a puppy.”
The year has brought Tianna a renewed sense of her own capabilities, reinforced by the community she’s found at UGM. “I know now that I don’t have to do it alone,” she says. “I never thought we could live in a place where we're so loved, we're so cared for, and people want to see us do well. I can't think of a better place to grow; I'm forever grateful to be here.”