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UGM Christmas meal about more than just tradition

Andrew Taran/UGM

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – An annual Christmas tradition takes over the Downtown Eastside today, with more than just hunger as a motivating factor.

Reports 3,000 people are expected to turn out in the face of a public health emergency.

Derek Weiss with the Union Gospel Mission says this year’s Christmas meal is overshadowed by the ongoing fentanyl crisis.

He adds a large part of today is to introduce addicts into their recovery program, which he says is needed more than ever.

“Because you know, it’s good for their general health but also because they just might die. This is becoming much more of a life and death struggle in much more of a real way. I’m sitting here on East Hastings and there are ambulances literally going by sometimes every five minutes.”

He expects a near-record turnout, thanks to the cold temperatures and snowy conditions, and a 10-year-high in the recent homeless count numbers.