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'Devastating' Greyhound cuts could put vulnerable people at risk: UGM

Last Updated Jul 11, 2018 at 12:38 pm PDT

(iStock Photo)

Jeremy Hunka with the UGM says some charity programs hinge on Greyhound bus service

Hunka fears without affordable bus service people will turn to dangerous alternatives like hitchhiking

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As Greyhound Canada prepares to cancel nearly all of its routes across western Canada, Vancouver’s Union Gospel Mission (UGM) is concerned that an important lifeline for many of its clients will be cut.

UGM gives out emergency crisis grants to over 130 people annually, allowing the homeless, those at risk of homelessness, or those with limited income to travel in the case of family emergencies.

“People access these for many reasons, primarily because they need to attend a funeral,” spokesperson Jeremy Hunka explains. “Perhaps they have… a relative who is on their death bed and they want to go see them before that person passes away.”

Sometimes, UGM will provide bus tickets to women attempting to escape a domestic violence situation.

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But the program hinges on Greyhound.

“To be honest, there is not really an alternative. UGM is not in a place where we can buy last-minute flights for people,” Hunka says.

“Many people, including many women, will be tempted to hitchhike or turn to Craigslist, and we know how dangerous things like hitchhiking can be on the Highway of Tears, we’ve seen it. So our great fear is that people, and especially women, are going to be more at risk now that Greyhound is suspending these services.”

Hunka notes UGM is not the only organization in the Downtown Eastside to offer this kind of travel service for its clients.

Greyhound Canada’s cancellations take effect Oct. 31. BC’s Ministry of Transportation will hold a meeting this week to discuss what comes next.