3 Reasons Why We Need to Invest In Women (And How We’re Going to Do It)

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Can you believe that we’re already halfway through 2020? Neither can we! This milestone is especially exciting for Union Gospel Mission because that means we’re steadily inching closer to 2021, when our brand new Women & Families Centre can open up and welcome hundreds of women and children to safety and stability inside. We’ve been watching with anticipation, as the big hole in the ground has now transformed into floors and walls. 

And as you know, this is so much more than just a building! It will build deep roots of stability and hope for the lives of women, children and families in our community. This will transform future generations. And as an integral part of our UGM family, when you help a woman change her life, you’ll impact the life of her children and family, too. 

Here at UGM, we believe in the dignity and value of women, and know that empowering moms leads to stronger, healthier communities! And this all starts with investing in women and addressing the deep struggles and barriers that they face on a daily basis. Here are the top three reasons why we need to invest in women: 

1. Lack of Supportive & Affordable Housing

Men are usually more visible on the street. But we know nearly 30% of Metro Vancouver’s homeless are women and in desperate need. A recent report by the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network showed that many women are part of the ‘hidden’ homeless, tragically forced to turn to desperate measures to escape the streets, like couch surfing or trading sex for somewhere to sleep. They may also be fleeing gender-based violence or trapped in sex trafficking situations. 

The new Women & Families Centre will be addressing this stark need for safe and affordable housing by providing 63 units with 135 beds for women and their families.

“Four years ago, I was desperate, homeless and scared. Truth be told, I almost died. I saw no hope. But it’s people like you who helped me change my life. The love I felt at UGM saved my life. Now years later, I can say that one of the most important things in my recovery was stable housing. Today, I’m overjoyed to know that UGM’s new building will help thousands of others like me. They’ll feel the love too.”
— Chloe, Former Guest & Ministry Support Worker at UGM

2. Low Availability of Recovery Options

There is a glaring gap for women who desperately need addiction recovery across Metro Vancouver, including here at UGM. Over the past four years, we’ve seen a growing backlog of applicants for our Sanctuary Stabilization Program, which serves women coming from detox who need recovery, or women finishing recovery and in need of housing. This vital program is at near capacity! And among women who are struggling to access recovery, key barriers listed by mothers were shame, fear of losing their children and judgement because they were a mom. 

Women’s recovery programs, especially for moms, are urgently needed. So we’re stepping up and increasing our Sanctuary Program’s capacity to 27 women at our new Women & Families Centre.  

“Everybody at The Sanctuary wants me to succeed. They remind me my future is now with my daughter. Everyone here keeps my head on the straight and narrow path. I feel wanted somewhere. People at The Sanctuary are like family to me now.”
— Deanna, UGM Sanctuary Alumna

3. Glaring Child Poverty 

When life is hard for women, that daily struggle gets passed onto their children. First Call’s BC Child Poverty Report Card shows that child poverty in the Downtown Eastside is tragically at nearly 80% and over 50% of families in this area, largely single parents, live below the poverty line. That’s over half of families struggling to make ends meet, put food on the table and have their kids growing up healthy, safe and worry-free. Growing up in poverty can negatively impact children in their learning opportunities, health, and social and economic outcomes later on in life.

Kids will be able to play, be in healthy relationships, and get the nutrition and opportunities they need to flourish in a safe and loving community at our new Women & Families Centre.

“Without UGM, I probably wouldn’t be able to get the groceries I need. UGM is putting forth a lot to make sure that families are going to make it through. Knowing I can come here makes me feel safe. They’ve definitely come through for a lot of people.”
— Sabrina, UGM Women & Families Mom

This new Women & Families Centre is intentionally designed to meet the gaping needs of housing, recovery and disparity. Because you choose to invest in women through supporting UGM, you’re helping change the trajectory of entire families for generations – fewer children in poverty, fewer women living on the street and a future for families who are deeply struggling. This new centre will keep families together and give kids a chance to transform their futures. The sky is truly the limit with how many families will be impacted, because we know that when moms have stable housing and supports, their children have a chance to really thrive. 

“I am excited to say that in our new Women & Families Centre we will have the privilege of journeying with women for up to 5 years by supporting them and have the chance to see women as individuals, as unique, invaluable, capable and full of potential. We get to walk alongside them as they begin to discover that potential and as they take steps towards a new life – a life that they both choose and deserve. Each woman will be able to have her own safe and caring community to walk through life with. 

The need for safe spaces for women and children, particularly family-focused recovery programs and supportive housing, becomes more and more apparent. Women with children face significant barriers when looking for safe and appropriate housing. And if you add to that the barriers presented by poverty, concurrent mental health concerns, a history of trauma and the stigma that goes along with it – the need is great. And so UGM is indeed meeting this need, being the hands and feet of Jesus as we plan, build, and soon open the doors!”
— Tara MacDonald, Manager, UGM Women & Families Centre 

Quick Facts on our Centre: 

  • The centre is a one-stop-shop! It has childcare, supportive and affordable housing, emergency supports, and a long-term addiction recovery program for women, which is the only program of its kind in the Downtown Eastside.
  • It will be a refuge for women and families fleeing abuse or who are suddenly homeless (when there are no other immediate options) and for women in need of stabilization or addiction recovery
  • Space: 7 storeys with 77,000 total square feet 
  • Housing: There will be 135 beds – housing for 18 single women and 9 mothers with infants in early stages of recovery, 12 supportive housing units for single women and 24 units for women with children, all at 100% shelter rate
  • Programs: It will have have a stabilization recovery program and a long-term addiction recovery program, counselling, life skills and career development classes, on-site employment internships, child care center for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, an after-school program for elementary school children, youth development programs for pre-teen and teens up to age 18, and a women’s resource team to support community needs

All of this would not be possible without our beloved UGM family of donors. You are literally changing lives and transforming communities. Thank you for partnering with us and we can’t wait to open the doors of our Women & Families Centre next year!

Progress Gallery


To continue giving vital and lasting support to our women and their families, partner with us to become a Hearts for the City monthly donor today! 

Written by Rachael Allen