Reflecting on the 2018 activities of the Neighbourhood Ministry is cause for celebration and thanks. Celebration for completing a decade of service to our homeless and vulnerable neighbours on Vancouver’s Westside. Thanks, for the blessings of wonderful volunteers and community partners, as well as many opportunities to feel the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. Here are some highlights from our year:
Our Street Outreach program saw volunteer teams canvass the Westside neighbourhoods to connect with our homeless and vulnerable neighbours, going out every Saturday of the year, making nearly 1,000 connections. The four Neighbourhood Ministry sponsor parishes of St. Anselm’s, St. Helen’s, St. John’s Shaughnessy and St. Philip’s, provided the Street Teams with robust care packets, fresh food, seasonal clothing and other items for distribution. Each connection was a chance to build trust and relationships, to let each individual know that someone cares. It was also an opportunity to connect people to other Neighbourhood Ministry programs, particularly the Mobile Care Unit.
The Mobile Care Unit, which is blessed to be supported through the care+share program of the diocese of New Westminster (2018-2019), brought teams of UBC medical residents and supervising physicians, UBC social work students and professionals, and parish volunteers to four field sites and to street camps as well. In 2018, nearly 70 visits were made and well over 200 clients served. Service included medical assessments and basic treatment, flu shot clinics, and helping people with an array of social service needs, such as applying for housing, income assistance, old age benefits, and retrieving lost identification. Of particular significance were the some 25 MCU clients who secured housing in the new Modular Housing units throughout the City. By all accounts, housing has made a huge and positive difference in their lives, and we continue to reach out and support these newly-housed individuals. We were blessed with wonderful partners at our MCU host field sites - St. Mary’s Kerrisdale; St. Augustine’s Marpole, the Showers program at Kitsilano Community Centre; and PHS, operator of the M. Mitchell Modular Homes building at 2nd and Ash, and with our strong collaboration with St. Faith’s Community Pastoral Resource Centre.
Through our community-building program at the Dunbar Supportive Housing building, in collaboration with Coast Mental Health, our volunteers continued to bring cheer and companionship to tenants by hosting several seasonal celebrations. A highlight was the 7th annual Christmas carol event, where residents, families and volunteers sang and celebrated together. We are thankful for the community spirit that was so evident.
A highlight of the year was our October benefit concert, held in commemoration of Homelessness Action Week, where guests were inspired by original folk, bluegrass and jazz tunes performed by local talent.
Serving our homeless and vulnerable neighbours directly provides an incredible opportunity for each of us to feel gratitude, not just for the blessings we have, but to each of those we serve for letting us into their lives. We feel energized for the year ahead.
On December 22, the Neighbourhood Ministry held a day of Christmas festivities. It started at St, Anselm's, when and where about 25 volunteers gathered to stuff care packets, then they hit the streets to deliver them to our friends on the street.
Following that, another 20 or so volunteers (some overlap) went to the Dunbar Supportive Housing building, where the Neighbourhood Ministry offers seasonal events and where many of our homeless neighbours have been given homes over the years. At Dunbar, they had carolling and a luncheon with turkey, put on by the Neighbourhood Ministry.
Thanks to Liz Vondette and Pitman Potter for the photos