Too often, people in poverty simply do not have a place to belong. Their homes are cramped and run-down, or they do not have a home at all. They cannot afford to spend time in restaurants or coffee shops, and they are made to feel unwelcome in public places. That’s why First United’s Drop-In is so important: we provide a place of welcome and acceptance for people with no other options. People are welcome to participate in social activities - like karaoke, art and music therapy - or just quietly sit and enjoy the peace of this accepting and open place.
Too often, low-income seniors, especially those living with mental health and addictions, are socially isolated and invisible. The Seniors Social Group provides opportunities for Downtown Eastside seniors to socialize with peers, learn new skills and connect with the support services they need to stay healthy and safe as they age. Guided by the needs and interests of participants, this group meets twice a week for activities and outings. Everyone aged 50 or better is welcome to participate.
We know that women in the Downtown Eastside are vulnerable to violence and exploitation, and are committed to providing programs and resources to meet their unique needs. We have a long history of providing safe space for women, including serving as the original home of WISH Drop-In for 20 years. Today, we provide a women’s only shelter and social space, and offer weekly women’s discussion groups and monthly events through our partner Beauty Night. We also have a designated Women’s Safety Committee, which advises the organization on ways to ensure safe and accessible service delivery for women.
Simple acts of kindness can be the most meaningful. That’s why the footcare is one of First United’s most popular and impactful programs. Many of the men and women we serve come to us with sore or injured feet, often from ill-fitting shoes or from spending all day walking the streets. Footcare volunteers offer them a soothing foot bath, nurses offer wound care, and everyone leaves with a fresh pair of socks. This simple act of relaxation and self-care helps to improve people’s health and sense of dignity.
For people who are homeless, our storage facility is often the first step off the streets. Through the mobility it affords, people are able to stabilize their lives, restore trust and build relationships, connect with services, attend trainings and interviews, and even go to work. The facility is the only program of its kind in Vancouver, and offers 200 units of storage, accessible seven days a week. Learn more here.
The Low Income Tax Return Program is a vital program serving low income people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Each year, we process thousands of tax returns enabling individuals to access vital benefits related to housing, family maintenance, pensions and other assistance programs. To learn more about accessing our Tax Return Program click here.
Reception is a hub of connectivity. Every day, hundreds of people come to our window to be connected with basic health and hygiene supplies, and to receive information and referrals to housing, food banks, and other community resources. Having access to these basic supplies - like dry socks, hot showers, and harm reduction items - is a vital part of supporting the wellness and dignity of our community. To learn more about donating items to this program click here.
Through our community phone and mail management programs, we help people maintain connection with their loved ones. Today, First United Church serves as the home address for over 600 people who do not have homes or fixed addresses. This allows people to receive family letters, job information, cheques and other correspondence. An address is required for many common things such as filing taxes, acquiring identification or accessing social services. We also provide free photocopying, fax, long-distance calling and outgoing mail.