Interactively Understanding Homelessness and its Barriers

OCTOBER 7-14 *Now extended to October 16*

Encounter is an educational Escape Room, hosted by UGM and EXIT Canada, that reveals hidden barriers faced by homeless Vancouverites. The room was developed alongside formerly homeless guests who want you to understand homelessness in a new way. Encounter is not a game; it is an immersive learning experience that will challenge your perceptions and inspire you to ‘counter’ homelessness. Encounter is open to the public from October 7th to 16th.

Use #UGMxEncounter to have your Instagram photo featured here!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Encounter?

Encounter is an educational Escape Room, hosted by UGM and EXIT Canada, revealing hidden barriers that homeless Vancouverites face in real life. The room was partly designed, developed, and constructed by formerly homeless guests who want you to understand homelessness on a new level. Encounter is not a game; it is an immersive learning experience that will challenge your perceptions and inspire you to ‘counter’ homelessness. Most importantly, it is an opportunity for formerly homeless guests to share their own stories, in their own way.

Why is it named Encounter?

We’ve named the experience Encounter for two reasons:

1. You are about to ‘encounter’ homelessness in a new way, discovering unexpected and even surprising realities for the first time. The encounter will be brief, offering just a glimpse of what homeless men, women and children face every day. While no one can truly understand homelessness without actually being homeless, Encounter offers an imperfect snapshot of the barriers and challenges our community faces.

2. The word ‘counter’ can be found within “Encounter”, and that is very meaningful to everyone involved in the project. Our hope is that every participant of Encounter walks away from the experience equipped and inspired to counter homelessness. Scroll down to read about how you can counter homelessness through volunteering, giving back, contacting your local government, and more.

Who created Encounter?

The Encounter concept was partly conceived, developed, designed and constructed by formerly homeless individuals who are eager to share their stories to help create positive change. Formerly and currently homeless individuals, along with several organizations dedicated to serving the homeless population in Metro Vancouver, were consulted to ensure dignity and respect of the community. Some formerly homeless individuals will be ‘hosts’ of Encounter during the campaign, and they will be paid for their time and expertise. Additionally, we partnered with EXIT Canada, Canada’s largest Escape Room chain, in its design and construction. Sponsors like Can-Design and Fabricana provided materials and support, and Two Wheel Gear provided video footage of Olympian Georgia Simmerling.

Who should come to Encounter? Is there an age limit?

We encourage anyone curious or passionate about homelessness to participate! Participants must be older than 12 years of age. We strongly recommend educators, as well as, community, religious, and business leaders attend so that they can take what they learned back to their communities. Follow up education opportunities will be available.

How many people can go through Encounter at one time?

The rooms are built to ideally suit 3 people working together; however, 2 people will work as well. You are not able to go through Encounter alone, so bring a friend.

How long is the experience?

The entire experience will take about 45 minutes from start to finish, including sign in. Please arrive 5 minutes before your scheduled start time.

Is Encounter wheelchair/limited mobility accessible?

Due to the nature of the experience, not all rooms are wheelchair friendly. If you have mobility requirements, please contact [email protected] and we can work together to accommodate you.

How can I help end homelessness?

We are glad you asked! There are a few different ways that you can get involved! The first thing you can do is share – help counter and break the stigma attached to homelessness by sharing your experience at Encounter on your social media channels.

  1. Follow us here: facebook twitter instagram
  2. Share our Facebook video and encourage your friends and family to sign up for Encounter.
  3. In one sentence, post what you learned during your #UGMxEncounter.
  4. Tag us and use the hashtag: #UGMxEncounter

Alternatively, you can get involved by learning more and making sure your community is educated. Contact [email protected] and use the subject line “Learn More” for info on training or learning opportunities. We have different options available for individuals, clubs, businesses, churches and more.

You can also speak up! Contact your MLA and urge them to take positive action to remove barriers and support those who are homeless. We’ve got more information on how to contact your MLA and what to say in the next few questions. Make sure you keep reading!

How can I get a hold of my MLA? And what should I say to them?

You can find your MLA here. Their mailing address, phone number and email address will be accessible once you enter your postal code. One of the most effective ways in 2017 to connect with your MLA is via email, and the best part about that is you can copy and paste this sample letter:

“Dear xxxxx, I recently participated in UGM’s Encounter campaign as a part of Homelessness Action Week. I was struck by how complicated life can be for the vulnerable in our region and would respectfully ask that you increase provincial efforts to assist those on our streets. As you know, it is far more effective and less expensive to invest and prevent homelessness through supports like housing and recovery than it is to deal with the negative consequences. I’d particularly like to call your full attention to our region’s housing crisis.

I thank you for your efforts in the matter.”

This sounds good – but I am interested in handing out sandwiches to the hungry in the Downtown Eastside, can’t I just get involved that way?

You may not know this, but there are many organizations providing meals daily to people in need throughout Metro Vancouver. For many people experiencing homelessness, this will be their first connection to an organization that can walk alongside them as they find the things they need. We encourage any act of kindness and generosity; however, we believe the most effective way to help create lasting change is by learning more, getting involved with organizations in your community, and speaking up to government.

Please visit for more info.

Where can I find more information about homelessness in Metro Vancouver?

The 2017 Homeless Count is a good place to start here. Or visit

Where can I find out more about the vacancy rate in the lower mainland?

For Homelessness Action Week 2016, Union Gospel Mission partnered with the University of Victoria and published a report called “No Vacancy”.

How to Get Involved...


Set-up an educational session for your community. We can help!


Speak up by emailing your local MLA.