Press Release

Back to Media Centre

Media Inquiries

For all media inquiries, please contact Nadia Tchoumi, Manager – Media Relations and Communications, at 604 996 1417 or [email protected]

UGM announces new Stabilization Program for women seeking recovery from addiction

Vancouver, BC—Union Gospel Mission is pleased to announce that after years of careful research and consultation with community members, service providers and academic researchers, the official direction for its emergent Women and Family’s Centre is announced. Opening in the summer of 2014, the Stabilization Program will help women in the Downtown Eastside bridge the gap between detox and recovery or from treatment to supported housing. Renovations have begun and construction in the east wing will be complete on Monday, March 31. Renovations of the west wing will begin shortly thereafter.

The building, which until April 2011 existed as UGM’s main facility, will be retrofitted to facilitate a one to three month program with 24-hour staffing. The Stabilization Program aims to continue the success of the Women’s Day Shelter which has allowed UGM to reach transient, street-entrenched women who would have otherwise been difficult to engage with and help. Many of the women UGM is reaching have endured multiple forms of trauma and abuse, addiction and some are working in the survival sex trade.

“Initially, we assumed we’d be turning the second floor into a recovery centre for women, since UGM has had so much success with its men’s program,” says Barb Atkins, UGM’s Manager of UGM’s Women and Families Centre. “But when we started researching the needs within the community, it became clear that the biggest gap was something a bit different, a bit outside the box of how we normally think about recovery. Many women here need a precursor to recovery, as well as a safe place to land after completing their recovery program.”

Prior to entering a recovery centre, participants must be 72-hours sober. This often occurs via an offsite, three-day medical detox program. While many women enter detox with a desire for sober living, it is estimated that only one in five women exiting detox has a safe place to go (typically a recovery program). The other four often re-enter what’s thought to be toxic and dangerous environments only to slip back into their addiction.

“Many women come so close to completely changing their lives, but without a safe place to land, and without specialized support, most fall through very large gaps,” says Atkins.  “Often, individuals are not sufficiently prepared for recovery, for it requires a life-changing willingness to let go of things that have become a key element in coping with tragedy and stress—an element that has been woven into every aspect of her life.”

Atkins explains that many women struggling in the Downtown Eastside and related communities are not only dealing with addiction issues, but inadequate housing, health issues and food insecurity. Their chance of living to age 75 is equal to that of a woman living in Guatemala, a country where much of the population lacks access to basic healthcare. Since 2005, homelessness among women has increased 16%. They desperately need tailored support services. The only current stabilization program is in Surrey.

UGM’s program will prepare up to 15 women at a time for their transition into a life of healing and wholeness. Staff will provide tactical support, trauma-informed counselling, holistic grief support, health and wellness education, client-centered advocacy and care and acceptance without judgment.

The official event opening is scheduled to be held this summer. At the official opening, UGM will be able to announce the generous funders of the program and will disclose the associated costs.  A second stabilization program in the Women and Families’ building is in the works as well and could be announced as early as fall 2014.

Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing the lives of men, women, and children for over 70 years. Through its 7 locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides counselling, education, safe housing, and alcohol and drug recovery to those struggling with poverty, homelessness, and addiction. The heart of the mission is to demonstrate God’s transforming love, ease the burden of the most vulnerable, rebuild the lives of the broken, and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside. To find out more, visit


Back to Media Centre