10 Years of Frontline Work

10 Years of Frontline Work

By Cristien Donhuysen, Program Manager, FIRST UNITED

I’ve worked on the frontline at First United for 10 years.

Frontline work isn’t easy, and it’s changed a lot over the years. Each year we’re seeing more overdoses, more tents on the streets, fewer essential services provided in the community…

And now with COVID, it’s become even harder.

10 years ago, I don’t think I could have imagined what First’s frontline work would look like now. But we’ve been able to tackle every new challenge head on.

Some days, our staff reverse overdoses and literally save a life. Those days are really scary, but I’m so grateful we’re here and able to help.

Other days, we’re here to listen. Our ministry services are amazing. It’s culturally-safe and trauma-informed.

That’s really important for our folks, because more and more we’re seeing people deal with the impacts of racism, violence, systemic oppression, and mental health challenges.

But, I think the way our frontline work makes the biggest difference is just by being here whenever people need us. Doesn’t matter with what. Whether it’s reversing an overdose, providing legal and tax support, making sure someone has a bed to sleep in, or providing a caring space for their spirit…We’re here.

We’re a hub for a lot of folks when they don’t have anywhere else to go. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we’re here to help.

We’ve been able to offer our frontline services for decades and rise to meet new challenges over the past 10 years because of our donors. I know a lot of you reading this have donated over the years–thank you. You literally make our work possible every day.

We’re working hard to meet the growing and changing needs of the DTES. To do that, we have to plan for whatever the next 10 years throws at us.

You can help us do that by becoming a Frontline Monthly Donor. A gift of just $5 a month can help us provide the survival-supports our community members rely on tomorrow, next month, and next year.

And to our over 330 current Frontline Monthly Donors, and our over 1,500 (!) Community Donors of the past year: thank you for making our frontline work possible. No matter how things change over the years, your gifts are the reason why we can keep serving the community.

You’re really the light shining through the cracks for First, and for the Downtown Eastside.


This Easter we need to raise $50,000 for our ongoing work providing survival-supports, spiritual care, and advocacy to the Downtown Eastside. Our goal is to reach 400 Frontline Monthly Donors; we only need 70 more! For as little as $5 per month, you can make sure that we never have to turn someone away.


If becoming a monthly donor isn’t the right choice for you right now, you can also join our Community Donors by making a one-time donation that will still help us reach our goal. Make a one-time donation today.