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UGM Women’s and Family Center opens first shelter today

Vancouver, BC—Union Gospel Mission is pleased to announce the opening of a day-shelter for women on the Downtown Eastside (DTES). This pilot project was developed in conjunction with the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center (DEWC), a nearby emergency night shelter for women. UGM’s first shelter intake is 9:00am on Monday, February 6, 2012.

Women on the DTES have fewer options than their male counter-parts. Women’s shelter beds remain very scarce and there is a great need for more. There is little to accommodate women with children. While UGM has worked specifically with women for decades, in recent years, the organization has been collaborating with researchers and determining plans to better serve women and mothers struggling with homelessness, poverty and addiction.  The temporary day shelter is a big step in this direction for UGM.

And while the notion of a shelter during the day might seem odd, it is meeting a critical need. “Every morning at 9:00 am, vulnerable women, and sometimes their children, are put out on the street,” explains Barbara Atkins, Manager of UGM’s Women and Families Centre. “The DEWC 412 Shelter does not have the capacity to keep women inside during the day, yet many of these women are sick, elderly, or abused. Providing a safe, consistent and private place of refuge will alleviate suffering for women and children and help them take the next steps towards greater health and provision.”

The day shelter is located at 616 E Cordova, the former location of all of UGM’s programs until April, when the new six-story facility was opened—a move which instantly doubled, and in some cases tripled, UGM’s output of services to the community. Since the move, programs at 616 Cordova—now known as the “UGM Women and Families Centre”—have also expanded significantly. Programs include meals, art therapy, counselling, chapel time, drop-in hours, crafts, special events and a range of afterschool options for kids.  A portion of the former recovery program’s dorm rooms will serve as the new day shelter.

Through the pilot project, UGM will alter the time and structure of many of its programs. The purpose of the shift is to transition the Women’s Centre from a drop-in model to a wrap-around model, allowing UGM to more intentionally help women move from a place of dependence and vulnerability, to independence and competency.  The wrap-around model is a woman-centred, strength-based approach where UGM identifies supportive people in a woman’s life who will become a part of her wraparound team. The idea is that eventually, UGM no longer be needed in the woman’s life.

The shelter will be open weekdays from 9:00 am – 6:00pm for 12 single women and women with children, with the possibility of including 1-2 families. “The women who will be seeking shelter here are those fleeing violence, unsafe housing or homelessness,” says Atkins. “We are working towards many positive outcomes as a result of this—improved health, recovery, permanent housing, finding of purpose, restored relationships, and spiritual wholeness.”

This pilot project is just a small fraction of what the Women and Family’s Centre could offer in the future. If funding becomes available, UGM will be able to retrofit the building and staff it adequately to meet the need.  UGM is currently assessing the specific needs of the community, and exploring its continuum of care, to comprehensively address the complex health, social and economic struggles that women and children on the DTES face each day.

Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing the lives of men, women, and children for over 70 years. Through its 9 locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides counseling, 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. UGM is a proud member of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities and the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions. To find out more, visit


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