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UGM Hosts fourth Annual Summer Connect: DTES service providers seek to clear the path to stability

Vancouver, BC—Maintaining crucial basic needs like shelter and employment while navigating murky bureaucracy can be challenging for anyone, but for those seeing life through the lens of poverty, homelessness or addiction, the path can be even hazier. Bringing some hope and clarity is exactly what Union Gospel Mission hopes to accomplish on Wednesday, June 17th, when hosting its fourth annual Summer Connect event.

Among the 40 service providers attending with the common goal of streamlining access to vital services, Vancouver-based company Clearly will provide free glasses and sunglasses to all Downtown Eastside residents who need it; they are armed with 2,000 of each to make sure no one is left out. They will also fill prescriptions (for pick up one week later), bringing clearer sight to those who couldn’t otherwise afford it.

“One of the reasons for partnering with UGM is because we’re a local company, with roots and operations in Vancouver,” explains Craig Lennox, Chief Financial Officer at Clearly. “Clearly is on a mission to fight poor vision globally which includes local Vancouver neighbourhoods.”

Change The View—Clearly’s charitable arm which is heading up the initiative—was started to respond to the 285 million people who are visually impaired worldwide. According to the organization, 80% of these impairments are preventable or treatable.

“Based on our past partnership with UGM, we’ve identified there’s a real need for these services,” says Lennox, “which is why our team is keen to get involved and provide support.”

Princess Street will closed to accommodate the event which gives attendees the opportunity to connect with housing providers, employment and legal assistance, all while enjoying some music and a hot meal. Other organizations will provide wheelchair and bike repairs, haircuts, pet-care and so much more. Gaining access to all these services in the same block allows someone to make the strides in one day that would normally take months.

It’s this ease of accessibility, coupled with a positive and lively atmosphere, that make connect events something to look forward to each year. Joseph Hopkins, a 61-year-old DTES resident, says it’s transformative in many ways.

“Things like this really help me,” says Hopkins. “A trip to the barber can cost $11,” he says, explaining that what others consider trivial can be a burden on a minimal income.

Hopkins also loves the comradery. “Every year I enjoy the meal and the haircut,” he says, “but I especially like the family feeling. I’m so far from home, that coming here really begins to feel like family.”

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