COVID-19: Update March 17, 2020

COVID-19: A Message from The Reverend Doctor Carmen Lansdowne

March 17, 2020

Thank you to everyone in First United’s world who has reached out over the past week. We have been busy implementing our pandemic response plan and partnering with other low-barrier service providers to take the most effective immediate actions possible to ensure that we get ahead of a known COVID-19 outbreak in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Our first priority remains people: our incredible and dedicated staff, our shelter residents and tenants in our housing. Staff continue to encourage social distancing to the extent it is practical in our buildings. For this reason, we closed our drop-in this morning just after breakfast. There is simply no way to keep our level of people congregating in one place at an acceptable level while keeping our doors open to the public. In addition, closing the drop-in will allow us to move shelter beds around in the building to maximize social distancing in the shelter to the maximum extent practical.

Through the creative genius of our amazing staff, we have not had to close any essential programming, with the exception of general access to public showers. (Showers are available at the Evelyne Saller Centre at 320 Alexander Street).

Here is what will be available to the community in the coming weeks until the worst of the pandemic is over:

  • Hot meals for the community at our front doors on East Hastings Street;
  • The following items – usually available at our Help Desk – will be available by request at our Hastings Street entrance: information, toiletries & hygiene products, water, harm reduction supplies, socks & underwear, pet food and other sundries;
  • Our tax clinics (previously scheduled MWF 1-3pm) will be on hold for the next two weeks. In the meantime, staff at the front door will have checklists and envelopes for anyone who wants to drop off their tax information for filing by a volunteer, and we will do tax outreach to other service providers on the Downtown Eastside;
  • Information about live-streaming weekend worship services for participants in our spiritual care programs;
  • Naloxone kits and naloxone training and refills are available by request;
  • Legal advocacy will continue to be open for intake, although we encourage you to call ahead to 1) ensure your matter requires an in-person meeting and 2) arrange a time to come for intake so that we can manage the number of people waiting to see our advocates at one time.
  • Memorials: We encourage community who have lost a loved one to reach out to Rev. Jim – but we are asking all community members to consider holding memorials after the acute danger from the pandemic is over
  • In addition, we will be partnering with local United Church congregations to take pressure off of food banks and ensure shut-ins currently living in our housing have access to adequate food and care packages from the wider community. Watch the Pacific Mountain Region communications emails and an update directly to our supporters for more information.

Make sure you’re signed up to receive important updates from us here.

We will have limited staff capacity to sort and store donations of goods, so we ask our generous supporters to hold on to your donations-in-kind until we have resumed normal operations. Please call 604-681-8365 ext. 129 to inquire about gifts in kind.

We appreciate the donations that continue to come in to ensure that we keep our operations going and allow us to be as responsive as we can in this troubling time. We anticipate the costs associated with supplies and staffing will increase in the coming weeks as we adjust to life in the midst of pandemic. If you are able, your cash donation is greatly needed at this time. Please consider a gift to care for the Downtown Eastside Community:

We will continue to update our response in accordance with best practices as the situation evolves.

Take good care. Clean hands, open hearts.


The Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne

Executive Director, First United Community Ministry Society