Saturday, October 23, 2010

How we can help Vancouver's Homeless

I find it extremely troubling that some of Vancouver's homeless may have to depend on Pepsi Cola to ensure they can lock up their few posessions at First United Church. Instead, I would like to think one of our city departments or the province could come up with the necessary funds. (You know where I think the money might come from!)

However, by posting this item, I hope I can encourage some of you to support this initiative...read on.

Downtown Eastside residents log in to save program

Church set up computers to allow people to vote in contest to fund storage facility for homeless

Hundreds of homeless people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and others are being recruited to go online and save a key service provided by First United Church.

BILL KEAY/ PNG Terry Hector parks his cart at First United Church. More than 200 homeless people use the storage room in the church’s basement.

Computers have been set up at the Downtown Eastside church to allow voting in an online competition to provide funding for the church’s storage facility for homeless people’s possessions.

“ Staff and volunteers at First United Church are assisting hundreds of people who are homeless and living in the church with voting in an effort to win the competition and help sustain the facility,” spokesman Don Evans said in a release Wednesday.

More than 200 homeless people have been able to keep their personal possessions, in bins or shopping carts, in a large storage locker in the church’s basement since October 2009.

Lauded for giving homeless people a safe place to put their stuff while sleeping, eating and doing other daily chores, the popular program received funding from a one-year City of Vancouver grant, which runs out at the end of this month.

In an effort to help cover the $ 96,000 annual budget for staff salaries and pest control, the church entered an online contest, run by Pepsi, to fund “ great ideas.” If it gets enough votes to place first or second in its category ( food and shelter), the church could win $ 25,000.

The church has held first place for much of the contest, but as it draws to a close, First United has dropped into second position, Evans said.

People can cast online ballots every day until Oct. 31 at www.refresheverything.ca/firstunitedchurch.

“ With less than two weeks to go our lead is starting to slip away,” said Rev. Ric Matthews. “ Please help us to get back in the lead and help save this essential service.”

The church has also approached local foundations for donations to help keep the storage facility operating.

Advocates argue the program reduces theft, the spread of bedbugs and clutter on the streets, as well as providing more stability to vulnerable people.

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