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For all media inquiries, please contact Jeremy Hunka, Senior Public Relations Specialist, at 604 996 1417 or [email protected].

Union Gospel Mission Provides Easter Hope Amidst COVID-19 Crisis

(Vancouver) – When Matt Amy found himself homeless six years ago, the 38-year-old never dreamt he’d eventually be called upon to respond to a Pandemic. Now several years into sobriety, Matt is preparing for Easter in ways he never imagined: protecting other homeless guests from COVID-19.

“I didn't feel worthy when I was homeless,” says Matt. “I felt like a burden on the whole world. Nobody loved me...now I’m part of a ‘hand of hope’ during a pandemic. It’s incredible.”

Matt’s unexpected journey began when he was hit by a car at just 25-years-old. The resulting head injuries led him to self-medicate through alcohol and drugs, which ultimately sent him into homelessness. But Matt found recovery at UGM after initially visiting for a meal, and eventually joined the organization’s staff. Today, he’s working in maintenance and custodial, spending his days sanitizing UGM’s life-saving facilities and ensuring guests who rely on UGM for support have safe, clean spaces to find refuge amidst the pandemic. He’ll be on hand Easter Sunday as UGM serves ham dinners to those struggling amidst the health crisis.

“I know the pandemic changes things but to have somewhere for people that are alone to come, it's huge,” says Amy. “Changing lives and giving hope. That's why I'm still here. It changed my life.”

In line with UGM’s pandemic plan, the organization has completely changed how it will host its Easter Meals in order to safeguard against COVID-19. Pandemic protocols include but are not limited to:

  • Rather than serving several thousand meals on a single day, UGM will serve 1200 Easter Dinners over the course of the entire weekend, thus limiting gatherings of large crowds. While fewer Easter meals will be served than previous years, UGM is increasing total weekly meals by more than 33% to meet surging needs in the homeless community, as more people are laid off, while also working to fill gaps left by other organizations that are forced to scale back or close due to COVID-19.
  • A limited number of staff, wearing personal protective equipment, will serve meals ‘to go’ out of a door, rather than gathering hundreds of people inside its dining hall.
  • Whereas typical major meal events require more than 100 volunteers and dozens more staff, only a handful of staff and volunteers will be present at one time.
  • Continuing to encourage social distancing to ensure guests are protected from any spread.

“These changes allow us to safeguard our guests while also providing essential life-supporting services, and reminding people that hope is on the horizon,” says UGM’s Rachael Allen. “Easter is about rescue and renewal. Every person who joins us for a ham dinner will be encouraged that we’re all in this together, that UGM will be here to serve no matter what the future holds, and that we’ll eventually get through this. Matt’s story is a reminder of that”

MEDIA EVENT DETAILS

Date:              Sunday, April 12th 2020
Time:             Meals served ‘to go’ through the door from 1045 AM – 11:15AM. Media wishing to attend are asked to meet outside UGM on Princess Street no later than 10:15am. We respectfully ask you to adhere to social distancing recommendations to protect our cherished guests.
Where:          601 East Hastings, Vancouver (@ Princess)
                       
THE MEAL

  • 650 lbs of ham 
  • 450 lbs of scalloped potatoes
  • 125 litres of sauce 
  • 400 lbs of mixed vegetables

CONTACT
Jeremy Hunka
Senior PR Specialist, Union Gospel Mission
Cell: (604) 996-1417
[email protected]

ABOUT UNION GOSPEL MISSION
Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing lives of men, women, youth, and children for more than 75 years. Through its seven locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides emergency shelter, meals, outreach, career development counselling, education, safe and affordable housing, addiction recovery, and much more 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 lives and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside. To learn more, visit www.ugm.ca.

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