Changing Lives Through Outreach

Changing Lives Through Outreach

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” –John 10:11

Time and time again, I hear a similar phrase. Whether it’s from an A&D Program graduate, a Cornerstone guest, or a staff member, the refrain is similar: “UGM has become my family.” Wow.

Family can be a loaded word, evoking memories often cherished, and sometimes painful. Yet I think, when someone expresses that UGM is their family it’s because they’ve found a community where they feel safe, secure, and loved.

As fall descends upon Vancouver, and Thanksgiving approaches, family is at the forefront of our minds. At UGM, the holidays give us a unique opportunity to connect with guests in family-like settings. Our Outreach team is instrumental in extending this hand up to hope that is essential in the colder months.

You are a part of our family too. Because of you, this fall those who need it will find a place of safety and dignity.

God bless you this Thanksgiving,

William B. Mollard

Mobile Mission Extends Hope

Mobile Mission Extends Hope

Mike’s Story

As a teenager, alcohol and drugs were a constant thread in Mike’s life. Mike was highly social, and a star athlete. To him, partying was part of the package.

Soccer dominated Mike’s young life, and he spent his teens and 20s travelling the world, playing goalkeeper for prestigious high-level teams. “In my soccer playing days, I didn’t have to work or anything. Everything was just there for me,” Mike explains. “I was well taken care of. There was lots of partying, alcohol, and cocaine—it was a team thing. We’d win and our manager would just buy us drugs so we could party. This one stretch we didn’t lose for three years.”

The alcohol and cocaine that fuelled the team’s celebrations eventually resulted in Mike turning to crack cocaine regularly to experience a more intense high. His high-speed lifestyle came crashing down as Mike aged out of playing soccer—losing a valuable support system, and the only life he knew. Holding a job became increasingly difficult with his drug addictions. “All of a sudden I was by myself,” he reflects. “There was nothing there anymore. What I had when I was playing—everything being taken care of—all of a sudden it was gone.”

Building a Family

Building a Family

Community building with UGM’s Affordable Housing tenants

When Jenny, UGM’s Housing Community Builder, accepted a contract to develop community amongst UGM’s Affordable Housing residents, she was met with mixed responses—some residents excited about the prospect, and some uncertain about the benefits.

Undeterred, Jenny saw an opportunity to combat the isolation and loneliness that many residents faced. “People had been wanting to build their social life, but just didn’t know how,” she explains. “They needed an opportunity, a medium where they could get to know their neighbours.”

Jenny’s love of the Downtown Eastside began in childhood as she witnessed her grandparents lovingly care for the tenants of an SRO building they owned. “My grandparents set a legacy in our family for really loving the DTES, having compassion for people, and understanding that every person has a story,” she explains. Following their footsteps, Jenny’s family has been managing the building since 2010—prioritizing connecting with the residents in meaningful ways.

I see it as UGM investing in not just getting people off the street, but getting them into a real life.

When the prospect of developing a similar community with UGM’s Affordable Housing residents arose, she jumped at the opportunity to work with people already committed to lives of recovery.

“It was so exciting to bring these programs in for people so they are able to continue their journey,” Jenny says. “Not just get put into housing and then close their door and sit there and be scared they’re going to relapse. We wanted them to have opportunities to build a community, to build a life.”

Since the spring, Jenny has empowered residents to plan and run various activity groups that promote interaction, growth, and of course, community. People responded enthusiastically, beginning activities like morning coffee club, knitting club, grocery shopping groups, and movie nights.

Life-giving relationships are a key part of success in maintaining sobriety, giving someone support as they work to navigate a new way of living. Jenny is thrilled by the progress and hopes it continues long after her formal contract closes. “I see it as UGM investing in not just getting people off the street, but getting them into a real life. Helping them to have a life that they love,” she says.

“We’re not meant to live in isolation. We’re meant to live in community and family, and I think they’re building a family.”

Streetlight Ministry

Streetlight Ministry

Simple ministry makes big strides

It’s a common sight on Wednesday and Friday nights, regardless of the weather, to see teams of volunteers walking the streets of the Downtown Eastside equipped with a willingness to listen, blue rain jackets in case of a downpour, and most importantly: cups of steaming hot chocolate.

It was the simplicity of the ministry that inspired Dennis, currently a part of UGM’s Outreach staff and now a supervisor for the Streetlight teams, to volunteer with Streetlight while attending Trinity Western University. Originally focused on working in long-term overseas missions, Dennis’ heart changed once he began walking the streets of the Downtown Eastside. “Doing streetlight changed my outlook on ministry and our call,” he explains. “I had the mindset that I had to do something, go somewhere far to make an impact. But we can make an impact in our backyard.”

Every one of us craves community, belonging, and love. That’s the same for any guest in our community.

Providing hot chocolate helps break down the barriers between volunteers and those in the community—offering a way to start a conversation that could turn into something so much more. “It’s an act of providing something, even simple, that allows someone to open up,” he explains. “For guests, it shows them that we care.” For volunteers, Dennis explains that the experience sheds light on a misunderstood neighbourhood: “It shows them the realities here, but also how amazing the people are. It shows volunteers that we’re no different. We’re all broken, we’re all hurt, and we all deal with it in different ways—but we’re all exposed to the same things.”

Streetlight teams work alongside UGM’s Outreach Staff to connect those in our neighbourhood with vital services when they need them. Yet the long-term relationships are what Dennis believes makes an impactful statement. “It’s just a very simple way of showing the love of Christ to people. Every one of us craves community, belonging, and love. That’s the same for any guest in our community.” And so, twice a week, Streetlight spreads through the neighbourhood to point people towards hope and show them someone cares.

Find out how one donor is using socks and to inspire his community to make a difference in the Downtown Eastside!

“It’s not solving the problem of homelessness, but for a couple thousand people, being able to put dry socks on their feet is what matters.”Dustan, champion