By Joan Stewart
On February 26, 2020, the City of Vancouver approved a grant in the amount of $26,600 for the Westside Anglicans Neighbourhood Ministry’s (WNAM) project “Equipping Volunteers for Service to Homeless and Vulnerable People.”
The City of Vancouver received funding requests from 23 organizations and approved 15 of them, providing grant amounts ranging from $14,000 to $116,000.
For a full list of the organizations and their requests, click here.
In its funding approval letter to the WANM, Vancouver City Council commended the WANM as follows:
“We recognize the vital work that the Neighbourhood Ministry does to support and protect vulnerable renters and people experiencing homelessness in our city. We received many requests for funding during this grant cycle, and as a result we are not able to fully fund every commendable project that came in. The committee saw the strength in your project and how it is offering critical services to renters in need…. Thank you for the important work you’re doing.”
In a presentation to the City of Vancouver, Standing Committee on City Finances and Services, Vicki Potter, WNAM Operations Lead, thanked the Vancouver City Council as follows:
“Good morning Mr. Mayor, members of Council, City staff and guests.
My name is Vicki Potter, and for the past 13 years, I have volunteered with the Westside Anglicans Neighbourhood Ministry. The Neighbourhood Ministry is a recommended recipient of a Renters’ Services Grant.
I am here to voice our support of the Renters’ Services Grant recommendations that you are considering today, to thank you in advance for your support of organizations like ours, and to encourage your continued action to address the plight of homeless and vulnerable citizens in our neighbourhoods.
First, let me tell you a little about the Neighbourhood Ministry. We are a group of four Anglican churches on Vancouver’s Westside, who 13 years ago joined together to offer care, companionship and practical assistance to the homeless and needy in our neighbourhood. We do this through a number of programs, run by teams of dedicated volunteers from the churches and the neighbourhood. We have about 40 volunteers who regularly serve between 3 and 50 hours per month.
The pillar of our program has been our Saturday street walks, during which teams of volunteers reach out to homeless neighbours where they live—on our streets, laneways, parks and beaches – offering care packets, fresh food, seasonal clothing, tents, tarps and blankets , and most of all kind conversation. We make about 1,000 connections a year, building trust, understanding and friendships. All of our offerings are donated by parishioners in the four churches.
Over the years, we have supplemented the street walks with other services, providing practical assistance in helping our homeless and vulnerable neighbours access housing, income and disability assistance, ID replacement, seniors benefits, and connections to medical and other supports. We help people complete applications, accompany them to appointments, and provide a PO box and telephone number to serve as contact for those who have no other stable way of being contacted. We stay in touch once people move indoors, finding that this can be a lonely and stressful time for people who have been homeless.
Four years ago, we launched the Mobile Care Unit. The MCU, as it is known, is a collaboration of our church volunteers with the UBC School of Medicine’s Family Practice Unit and the UBC School of Social Work. Together, we visit several westside community meal programs regularly to provide basic medical care and social service assistance to meal guests. Many of the guests are homeless or precariously housed, low-income and have a myriad of medical conditions. In addition to providing low barrier access to medical and social services, the MCU provides a unique interdisciplinary training ground for our future doctors and social workers who serve the MCU during their residencies and practicums.
The work of the Neighbourhood Ministry to date has been funded almost entirely through the Anglican Church—individual parishioners who give what they can— and by friends and other westside neighbours who believe in this important cause. Most importantly, the initiative is sustained through thousands of volunteer hours per year.
This brings me to why the Renters’ Services Grant is so important to our organization. As our services have expanded, the training and knowledge required by our volunteers has increased dramatically. Our clients rely on us for accurate information related to the filing and tracking of applications, and we take that responsibility seriously. Through ongoing training, our volunteers learn the ins and outs of various government programs, eligibility requirements, and application processes, then go on to help our clients through this maze. Funds from the Renters’ Services Grant will allow us to hire a part-time professional to support our volunteer training program and to keep volunteers connected with other organizations to maximize effectiveness. We applaud the City for investing in and partnering with organizations such as ours to facilitate neighbours helping neighbours.
Finally, I want to thank the City for its efforts to address affordable housing in this City—especially housing for the homeless and poorly housed. At the Neighbourhood Ministry, we believe housing is a basic human right. The Modular Housing program, and before that the “bricks and mortar” Supportive Housing buildings spread throughout our City—provide decent, stable homes for the most marginalized of our citizens. We see firsthand the impact this housing has had on our clients—a first chance at improved mental and physical well-being. A chance at a fresh start.
We also see the impact when this housing fills up and there is no more coming online—as has been the case for nearly a year now. Wait lists grow, our streets fill up again, the costs to society skyrocket, and despair and hopelessness prevails.
In closing, we implore you to BUILD MORE SUPPORTIVE HOUSING. IN EVERY NEIGHBOURHOOD. AS FAST AS YOU CAN.”