Vancouver: Home or Homeless?

Vancouver is one of the world’s most desirable cities, but it’s also one of the most expensive. Every day, thousands of your neighbours are struggling with poverty, homelessness, and addiction. It’s hard to survive.

Metro Vancouver’s Extreme Need

In Metro Vancouver,


people are homeless


live in Vancouver


shelter beds short of providing everyone refuge


homeless camps


people becoming homeless every week


tragic drug overdoses
in BC during 2017

The Problems


People living below the poverty line are forced to make impossible choices between rent, heating, food, childcare, clothing, education, and medical care.


Homelessness is at an all-time high, with the crisis growing in almost every corner of Metro Vancouver.


Breaking cycles of addiction is never easy, especially when a person is surrounded by stigma, and struggling with trauma & mental health.

The Causes

The Downtown Eastside is one of Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhoods, rich in history, culture, and community.

Originally the heart of our city, the DTES is now known as Canada’s poorest postal code. How did we get here?

Housing Crisis
There’s a shortage of affordable units in Vancouver. With vacancy rates below 1%, low-income men, women, and families are pushed into homelessness.

People face multiple barriers to housing, the most commonly reported being:

High Rent Costs
Lack of Income
Lack of Housing for their Needs

Cost of Living
Having a job or stable income doesn’t mean you’re financially secure. Metro Vancouver’s high cost of living pulls 10% of working adults below BC’s poverty line.

While the average Vancouverite lives above the poverty line, DTES residents live disproportionately below:

Health & Financial Crisis
Medical conditions or mental illnesses can rob a person of their ability to work. 83% of Vancouver’s homeless have health concerns, but no financial safety net.

Most people facing homelessness report they’re struggling with multiple health concerns:

Medical Condition
Mental Health Struggle
Physical Disability

Health concerns often leave people with multiple, unstable sources of income. The most common are:

Income Assistance
Disability Benefits
Full or Part-Time Employment

Opioid Crisis
Any one of our neighbours struggling with addiction is at risk of overdosing.

In 2017:

366 Vancouverites overdosed - an average of 4 BC residents lost their lives each day 366 Vancouverites overdosed - an average of 4 BC residents lost their lives each day

Family Breakdown & Trauma
A dangerous home environment can force vulnerable people to flee. Ultimately finding themselves on the streets, many use substances to cope with trauma.

The Consequences

Anyone can face poverty, homelessness, and addiction. 78% of Vancouver’s homeless population were already living here when they lost their home.



in the City of Vancouver


in the Downtown Eastside

— 53% are low income

— 70% child poverty rate


are Homeless

Of Vancouver’s Homeless Population:

UGM’s Solution

Union Gospel Mission is determined to overcome poverty, homelessness, and addiction—one life at a time. Our seven locations position us to provide transformational care and life-giving hope for people across Metro Vancouver, and the city of Mission.

A map showing four of UGM's seven locations, in Vancouver, New Westminster, Surrey, and Mission. A map showing four of UGM's seven locations, in Vancouver, New Westminster, Surrey, and Mission.
Our Continuum of Care

UGM works to transform lives every day, walking alongside those in need and empowering them, step by step. We do this through:

Street Level Outreach Programs
Offer practical assistance, counselling, spiritual guidance, and referrals

Meals, Shelter & Clothing
Restore dignity, giving guests the freedom to focus on rebuilding their lives, while connecting to other UGM programs

Alcohol & Drug Recovery
Offers freedom from addiction through live-in programs, where participants are equipped with tools to transform their lives

Career Development Services
Help people identify their strengths, build skills, and increase the chances of finding meaningful work

Social & Affordable Housing
Provides stability for families and individuals, helping re-establish them in the community

Children & Family Services
Include afterschool programs, summer camp sponsorship, mentorship and life skills workshops

Where You Fit In

The problem is complicated, but together, we can transform communities.

Your desire to help gives hope and dignity to men, women & families. And with hope, lives will be lifted out of poverty, homelessness, and addiction for good.

So, What’s the Next Step?
Sign up for UGM’s e-newsletter to be the first to read hope-filled guest stories, get information on how you can help, and hear updates on our latest initiatives.

Explore Ways to Make a Difference Right Now


BC Coroners Service
Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths Report (2017)

BC Non-Profit Housing Association & M. Thomson Consulting
Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver (2017)

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Long Overdue: Why BC Needs a Poverty Reduction Plan (2017)

City of Vancouver
Downtown Eastside Local Profile (2013)

City of Vancouver
Homeless Count (2018)

First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition
BC Child Poverty Report Card (2017)

First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition
Working for a Living Wage (2018)