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Summer Connect: Downtown Eastside service providers ban together to offer tangible help, all under one roof

Vancouver, BC—Imagine being able to accomplish in just one day, a series of tasks that would normally take you up to eight months to complete. Now imagine that those tasks are pertinent to your health, survival and general well-being. That’s exactly what’s offered to those struggling with poverty, homelessness and addiction at Union Gospel Mission’sSummer Connect event June 18th. Trying to navigate complex bureaucracies with mobility and literacy barriers, amidst daily survival has made it difficult for many in this group to gain traction in their life. At Summer Connect, 40 service providers will gather under one roof, in an effort to limit geographic barriers and to offer personal assistant for a wide range of needs.

Some of the services offered meet not only a practical need, but offer an immediate sense of dignity and respect.

David Arnold of Mobile Hairstyling explains. “Something as simple as a haircut can restore the self-confidence that many in this community are lacking,” he says. “Getting one’s hair done gives people an opportunity to sit back, rest, and have someone else take care of them for a change. Many at Summer Connect are not used to receiving the level of respect that a haircut can offer.”

Summer Connect, Arnold will join 40 other agencies who, collectively, will offer at no charge: legal assistance, support for housing, employment assistance, wheelchair and bicycle repair, pet care, medical foot washing, and more. To accommodate the crowd, Princess Street will be shut-down and tents put up. Breakfast will be served all-day.

Arnold has seen firsthand the positive effect of this event and the transformation—both inside and out—is unmistakable. “People instantly feel good about how they look after,” says Arnold, who has been an active volunteer in the Downtown Eastside community for over a decade. “It is always nice to see a positive reaction when they look in the mirror, especially if they haven’t had a haircut in a long time. Hopefully, if they like the way they look, confidence will shine through and they will receive more of the respect that they deserve. ”

Not only does the event help those in the community, but it also gives service providers a chance to learn more about each other. Matt Hislop, UGM Chaplain, explains how it enables and promotes collaboration and relationship-building among local agencies.

“Summer Connect 2013 was a great opportunity for all of us to connect,” says Hislop. “It’s really important for those of us working with some of the same people to know who else is out there and to have positive working relationships with each other. Knowing how other service providers function is crucial in identifying where the gaps are, where services can be improved, what can be streamlined and eliminated, and ultimately give the best possible care to Downtown Eastside residents. Service providers encounter people daily with unique needs that their individual organization cannot meet—knowing who can and how to bridge that gap is not only extremely helpful, in some cases it’s life-saving.”

Summer Connect Details:

Date:             Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Time:             11:00AM– 3:00PM

Location:      Union Gospel Mission,601 East Hastings

Princess Street will be closed at Hastings and Cordova to accommodate the tents and activities, as well as the activities inside UGM

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 www.ugm.ca.

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