COVID-19 FAQs: First United Programs, Services and Support

COVID-19 FAQs: First United Programs, Services and Support

As we continue to serve the community we love so much, First United is monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic closely and taking steps to respond to keep everyone safe. We are sharing here some responses to frequently asked questions about our programs and services. Stay safe, everyone!

PROGRAMS AND SERVICES – FAQs

Is the shelter at First United still operating? 

Yes. The shelter at First United is still operating. We are welcoming new shelter guests (conducting shelter intakes) carefully and with appropriate caution. If you are seeking shelter, please contact Carnegie Outreach for a referral at 392 Powell St, 604-665-3318 or carnegie.outreach@vancouver.ca.

We have taken steps to implement safety and sanitation measures in the face of COVID-19, including spacing to support physical distancing, additional sanitation and spot cleaning, and masks for residents and staff. On April 20, 2020, a Vancouver Coastal Health walkthrough inspection commended our shelter team for proactively implementing COVID-19 health and safety measures.

Is the drop-in still operating?

The drop-in space inside the building is accessible only to our shelter guests. The drop-in space is not currently accessible to the general public.

Is the Community Help desk still operating?

The Help Desk is operating out of the front door on East Hastings St. At the front door, staff can support anyone in the community to access the services and supplies they would normally find at the help desk, including: information, toiletries & hygiene products, water, harm reduction supplies, socks & underwear, pet food and other sundries.

Are Community Meals being served at First United during COVID-19?

Yes! We continue to offer free, nutritious meals to our community. Food service is to-go only, and served at the front door on East Hastings St. Breakfast is served at 8:00am, and lunch is served at 12:00pm.

I need help with an advocacy issue. Are First United Advocacy services still operating?

Yes, advocacy services are still operating. We are assisting clients with any usual issue by telephone or email. If you need to get in touch with an advocate, please call (604) 251-3323 or email advocacy@firstunited.ca

Staff hours at the advocacy office are limited and irregular. Staff are only seeing people in person for certain emergency issues including notices of eviction or if someone has not received their benefits from welfare, disability or senior’s pension. To ensure you can get help with your issue, please get in touch with us by phone or email rather than coming in-person to the office without arrange a specific time.

I need to do my taxes! Is First United still offering tax filing support for people on low incomes?

Yes, First United is still offering tax return processing. If you are living on low income and would like support filing your taxes, you can drop off your forms to the front door on the East Hastings side of the building. Please ask at the door for an envelope and checklist. You must bring your tax slips (T4s, T5007s, etc.) in order to be served. Please note: intakes are completed by staff and volunteers and they cannot provide tax advice.

Are showers available at First United during COVID-19?

Currently, showers are only available for our shelter guests. Showers are not available for the general public.

Is First United still able to hold 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 to honour their loved ones after the acute danger has passed and we are more safely able to gather.

Can I still access Naloxone and harm reduction supplies?

Naloxone kits, training and refills are available by request at our Hastings St entrance.

SUPPORTING OUR WORK – FAQs

How can I help First United right now? 

Thank you for thinking of us! This is a challenging time for everyone, and we so appreciate the many people who have reached out to offer support to people who call the Downtown Eastside home. If you are able to make a financial contribution, we so appreciate your support. You may donate online at www.firstunited.ca/donate or by cheque payable to First United Church Community Ministry Society and mailed to: First United Church Community Ministry Society 320 East Hastings Street Vancouver, BC V6A 1P4

We expect COVID-19 will bring additional staffing, cleaning and supply costs, and we have already made the difficult decision to cancel several events this spring that would normally generate critical operating income. Any contribution, no matter the amount, is gratefully welcomed.

Is First United accepting donations of food/soap/etc during COVID-19?

We are currently unable to accept donations of food, soap, toiletries, and other items. We are, however, able to accept donations of personal protective equipment (eg. masks and gloves). See below for more information.

Is First United accepting donations of homemade cloth masks or other personal protective equipment? 

Yes. If you have personal protective equipment to donate, we are accepting these donations.

  • Homemade cloth masks must be new, unworn, and in plastic bags
  • Single-use PPE (surgical masks and gloves) must be unused and in their original packaging.

These items can be dropped off at the front door at 320 E. Hastings, Attn: Carmen.

I want to mobilize my community to help: What can I do?

Thank you! One of the most effective ways to help right now is to introduce your friends and loved ones to First United, and share your passion for helping.

Some ideas: