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Vancouver's UGM expands to keep up with heightened pandemic need

Last Updated Dec 3, 2020 at 10:33 pm PDT

(Courtesy: Twitter @ugm)

The Union Gospel Mission is expanding to offer 22 more spaces while demand is up during the pandemic

UGM is converting a classroom for extra shelter space

UGM plans to hand out about 40 per cent more Christmas Hampers this year

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The Union Gospel Mission is adding more shelter space to help get people in need out of the cold heading into the holidays.

UGM will be expanding its shelter by next weekend to offer 22 new spaces for people to sleep this winter.

“We are moving some things around. We’re converting a classroom into shelter to make sure we can do it safely with COVID-19 protocols,” says UGM’s Jeremy Hunka. “So there’s just a lot of work that’s going on, but we need to do it because the need is so high.”

More people have been reaching out for help during the pandemic and the shelter hadn’t been able to accommodate them all, he adds.

“We saw that the number of turn-aways at our shelter was up drastically year over year, since the beginning of the pandemic really.”

Hunka notes how difficult this time of year can be with temperatures dropping and additional stress around Christmas.

“We’re seeing several new applicants for our hampers who have never accessed them before but maybe lost a job because of the pandemic or maybe their income is limited because of the pandemic.”

About 40 per cent more Christmas hampers will be distributed this year by UGM, Hunka says.

With the addition, UGM will be able to offer 98 shelter spaces.

If anyone has extra winter coats or boots, UGM is accepting donations, Hunka says.

-with files from Sonia Aslam