The Neighbourhood Ministry began in 2008 as a street outreach service to those in need on Vancouver’s Westside. The three founding churches were St. Anselm’s, St. Helen’s and St. Philip’s. Under the guidance of Rev. Dr. Pitman Potter, a core group of 40-50 volunteers offered their time to canvass the streets, with strong support from the congregations, who provided care packets and nutritious food for distribution. The aim was modest: provide non-judgmental love and support to those living on our streets. The return was transformational. As trust was built and stories shared, both volunteers and our homeless neighbours alike found a connectedness that fostered friendship, understanding and hope.
A pivotal point in our history came in 2010, when the City and Province announced two Supportive Housing buildings were under construction on Vancouver’s Westside. The housing was aimed at people who were homeless and who had connections to the Westside. The Neighbourhood Ministry worked with government and the non-profit building operators to refer homeless people to the new buildings, and helped those being referred complete housing forms, secure ID and income assistance, and prepare for interviews. Dozens of those who our street teams had served these many years were offered homes and continue to live inside to this day. The transition from street to home is not an easy one, and our volunteers continue to be a presence in the lives of our formerly homeless neighbours, checking in regularly and offering one-on-one support and friendship. In addition, the Neighbourhood Ministry continues to be a referral for these and other housing units available through the new Modular Homes program for the homeless, working with BC Housing, the City and other housing providers.
In 2017, the Neighbourhood Ministry launched the Mobile Care Unit (MCU), and welcomed the addition of St. John’s Shaughnessy as a core Neighbourhood Ministry church. The MCU helps break down barriers to accessing medical and social services for homeless and marginalized neighbours by bringing these services to them, where they are, at local Westside community meals and camps on the street. The MCU includes participation by the UBC School of Medicine and UBC School of Social Work, who offer time and expertise from doctors, residents and students.
The Neighbourhood Ministry has been a participant through these years in forums on homelessness and poverty, presenting at conferences at Vancouver School of Theology (2010, 2016), Alliance Church Affordable Housing Forum (2011) and Diocesan Mission Conference (2016), as well as bringing its expertise to the City through participation in the Mayor’s Faith Roundtable and Homelessness Action Week.
The Neighbourhood Ministry has been recognized by the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster as a GEM recipient (2012-2014), Care+Share recipient (2018-2019) and designation as a Related Group.