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New facility dedicated to women, families will be largest UGM expansion in decades

Last Updated May 22, 2019 at 10:28 am PDT

The UGM has begun construction on its new Women and Families Centre on East Hastings. It's being billed as a facility that will turn the tide for thousands of struggling families over the coming decades. (Courtesy UGM)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A long-running organization dedicated to helping the homeless on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is breaking ground on a facility billed as one that will turn the tide for thousands of struggling families over the coming decades.

The Union Gospel Mission‘s seven-storey “Women and Families Centre” will have 135 beds and 63 units of long-term housing and treatment, replacing a smaller building.

Jeremy Hunka with the non-profit says the need for women and children is massive.

“Everybody knows about the housing crisis, how that presses on everybody in the Lower Mainland,” he explains. “For those on the bottom rung of the housing ladder or for those struggling with poverty, homelessness and addiction, it’s just crushing.”

The new facility, located on East Hastings at Heatley Avenue, will be the UGM’s largest expansion in nearly 80 years, and will also feature childcare spaces, as well as a long-term women’s addiction recovery program.

Hunka says this new building will be very much welcomed.

“There was a report that came out late last year that showed that the child poverty rate in the Downtown Eastside was at almost 80 per cent, according to the most recent statistics. Now, those were a couple of years old and things may have improved since then, but to consider that eight-out-of-10 kids on the Downtown Eastside is in poverty, is just completely unacceptable.

“We need to do better to take care of those who are at-risk and vulnerable,” Hunka says, adding this new building is a step in that direction.

It’s expected to be finished as early as 2021, and will cost $35.5 million. The money comes from private donors and capital funding from all three levels of government.