News / Vancouver

New shelter spaces at UGM open in time for winter blast

Union Gospel Mission opens 20 new spaces in its shelter this Friday, which will remain open throughout the winter.

Jeremy Hunka, Union Gospel Mission.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro File / Vancouver Freelance

Jeremy Hunka, Union Gospel Mission.

With wicked weather expected this winter, Union Gospel Mission is preparing for surging demand by open 20 new shelter spaces Friday.

The spaces, at its Downtown Eastside location at 601 East Hastings St., will be open throughout the winter.

UGM spokesperson Jeremy Hunka said the spaces – which are in addition to the 72-bed shelter it operates year-round – used to be opened only during extreme weather alerts but the organization decided this year to keep them open at all times with homelessness at record levels.

“The need is so great around Metro Vancouver and we don’t want to turn people away. We decided we are going to open them right through the entire winter because we think the need is there,” said Hunka. The weather this winter is supposed to be terrible and it can really take a toll. We want to do whatever we reasonably can to help people in a really dangerous spot.”

Like UGM’s regular shelter, people will be able to stay in the new beds for up to two weeks and will have access to a case manager to help find permanent housing and link to other services.

When an extreme weather alert is called, Hunka said the organization will lower the barrier to access its beds even further.

The organization knows that 20 extra spaces won’t be enough to help everyone this winter, and is also asking for donations of lightly worn, waterproof winter clothing.

“The spaces are really a drop in the bucket compared to the intense need in Metro Vancouver,” said Hunka. “We’re always looking for waterproof boots and jackets. We’re in need of gloves right now, clothes that will keep people warm. WE will also be handing out survival gear like sleeping bags, heat-reflective tarps and blankets to keep people safe.”

More on