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Advocacy Issues

Residential Tenancy Act Law Reform Platform

Date 5 Feb, 2024

Category Advocacy Issues

“Everyone Needs a Home: Solutions for Preventing Homelessness, Evictions, and Displacement”, is our law reform platform that provides evidence-based recommendations drawing on research and statistical analysis, case law, legislation from multiple Canadian jurisdictions, Residential Tenancy Branch datasets, and the BC Eviction Mapping dataset (which has documented the mechanisms of eviction since mid-2022) for the Residential Tenancy Act.

In BC, hundreds of thousands of households rely on both rental housing and the law to provide a basic level of protection and stability. Tenants in British Columbia have faced dramatic increases in rent paired with the highest eviction rates in the country. The impacts on our most vulnerable neighbours cannot be overstated. Homelessness, community displacement, family separation, disconnection from work and necessary services, and a host of physical and mental health impacts follow eviction. 

The Residential Tenancy Act has the potential to meet these challenges, but in order to do so, it must change. It must offer a concrete response to the risks posed by the commodification of housing and profiteering. Many of the core features of the Act are decades old and do not address present realities.

Calls to Action

Read the summary of our platform and the full platform below. Then, take action and sign our petition calling on Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing, to implement these pressing amendments.

Read the Summary

Read the Full Report

Open Letter: Call on City, Province to meet and plan encampment response

Date 17 Jan, 2024

Category Advocacy Issues

The below open letter was sent in collaboration with the Carnegie Housing Project to BC and Vancouver officials, urging a human-rights based approach to supporting unhoused neighbours. The letter was originally sent on January 12, 2024, and signatories listed are representative through January 17 2024.

Dear David Eby, Premier of British Columbia
Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing of British Columbia
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
Sean Fraser, Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities of Canada
Jenny Kwan, MP Vancouver East
Joan Phillip, MLA Vancouver – Mount Pleasant
Nathan Allen, Director Strategic Projects for British Columbia
Betty Lepps, Director of Urban Relationships Director of Urban Relationships, Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation
Brennan Bastyovanszky, Chair of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation
Ken Sim, Mayor of Vancouver
Sandra Singh, Deputy City Manager at the City of Vancouver
Celine Mauboules, Managing Director, Housing and Homelessness Services at the City of Vancouver

We are writing this letter to urge the Province of BC, City of Vancouver, and Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation to provide a human rights-based, harm reduction, trauma-informed, decolonial approach to supporting our unhoused neighbours. Eliminating enforcement-based policies, such as the Park Control By-law, in search of compassionate approaches that cease the daily traumatization of city residents who are unhoused will provide a more thoughtful experience that helps people rather than create more harm. This is particularly true for people living in temporary shelters in CRAB Park, Oppenheimer, and other Vancouver parks on the stolen and occupied territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Peoples.

We support the requests from the CRAB Park Community for:

  • Acquiring the parking lot just west of the park and expedite a tiny home village for the CRAB Park community;
  • A winter moratorium on eviction of people who sleep outside;
  • Provision of washrooms, lockers and better sanitation (peers could be paid to do cleaning);
  • Better communication with the Fire Department and other civic services; 
  • No evictions from structures unless alternate, safer structures are provided by the City.

We also ask that the City work with the Province to rapidly fund and open 24 hour warming spaces across the city. There is still an extensive shortage of suitable shelter and housing units at this time and as such, we ask that the three partners do more to provide what is needed by CRAB Park residents and other unsheltered individuals as outlined by them. We understand the complexities of an encampment and we know that the solution to these concerns is a compassionate and holistic approach that prioritizes providing stable, suitable and appropriate housing to those in need and not forcibly displacing individuals to insufficient shelter or a different outdoor space. At this point, with overloaded and unsuitable shelters and virtually no vacant affordable housing, tent cities are part of the housing continuum.

We request that Mayor Sim and members of Vancouver City Council meet with stakeholders in the community, including people with lived experience, to make an adequate plan for supporting a human rights-based approach for groups who are unhoused to access appropriate shelter and housing when it’s available.

We believe in supporting initiatives that enhance accessibility on the streets, ensure the safety of women and gender-diverse individuals, and promote fire safety to foster a healthy and inclusive community. However, evicting people from parks when there is no suitable housing fails to address these critical concerns in a sustainable, dignified, or compassionate manner.  

Please let us know what actions you intend to take immediately to deal with the crisis. 

Sincerely, 

Steven Johnston, Community Coordinated Response Network
Erin Bodin
Stephen D’Souza, Homelessness Services Association of BC
Aditi Shetty, Potluck Cafe Society & Potluck Catering Inc.
Michelle Lackie, Exchange Inner City
Jessica Sakeskanip, Pacific Association of First Nations Women
Scott McTaggart, Artisan Church
Holly Steele, Support Worker at Embers Staffing
Kathy Shimizu, WePress Community Arts Space Society
Evan, Heart tattoo society
Maria Gaudin, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House
Amanda Burrows, First United
Joanna Habdank
Carrie Humchitt, Executive Director, Vancouver Aboriginal Health Society (VAHS)
Don Shafer, CFRO FM (Co-op Radio)
Mark Friesen, Columbia College
Dr. Lou Lizotte, WISH Drop-In Centre Society
Moroti George, Gallery Gachet
Gilles Cyrenne, president, Carnegie Community Centre Association
Lisa Curry, Megaphone
Clara Prager, Women Transforming Cities (WTC)
Johanna Li, EMBERS Eastside Works
Sherri-Beth Rosette, Pacific Association of First Nations Women
Alex Bodin
Matthew Smedley, Mission Possible
Jill, Watari Counselling and Support Services
Landon Hoyt, Hastings Crossing BIA
Charlotte Lewthwaite
Casey Vickers, ally
Laura McQuarrie-Salter, VWHC Vancouver Women’s Health Collective
France-Emmanuelle Joly
Devin O’Leary, Carnegie Housing Project
Christopher Livingstone, Aboriginal Front Door Society
Christina Wong, Employ to Empower
Naved Noorani, Potluck Cafe Society
Sonam Swarup
Kim Hawkins, Rise Women’s Legal Centre
Samantha Schumacher, Mom2Mom Child Poverty Initiative
Richard Hojjat, La Boussole Centre Communautaire Francophone
Marina Watabe, Board of Director, Powell Street Festival Society
Emiko Morita, Powell Street Festival Society
Adriana Ng, A Better Life Foundation
Julia Aoki, SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement
Kathleen Leahy, Vancouver Urban Core Workers Association
Aaron Bailey, Eastside Illicit Drinkers Group for Education
Hannah Dempsey
Delilah, WAHRS
A.J. Withers, Ruth Wynn Woodward Jr. Chair, Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, Simon Fraser University
Jennifer Johnstone, Central City Foundation
Wendy Pedersen, Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative
Laura MqQuarrie Salter, VWHC – Vancouver women’s Healing Centre
Jacqueline Michell, Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre
Brittany Graham, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users

Opinion: The city is more concerned with hiding homelessness rather than solving it

Date 16 Jan, 2024

Category Advocacy Issues

Executive Director Amanda Burrows and Director of Development and Communications Katie Koncan published an op-ed in The Province on January 13, 2024. The piece came after Vancouver Park Rangers and Vancouver Police Department officers began displacing residents camping in Oppenheimer Park, taking their belongings including tents and blankets, and forcing them to pack down their tents during the day, immediately before a cold snap that predicted temperatures of -13 degrees.

View the original piece published in the Province here.

Just before Vancouver was predicted to experience a cold snap, with temperatures dropping to minus-11 degrees, Vancouver Park Rangers and Vancouver Police Department officers descended on residents of Oppenheimer Park. They took personal belongings, including the only shelter residents had — their tents — and told them to move along. They can’t stay here, they were told.

With shelters regularly at capacity (and inquiries to the community resources phone line 211 confirm Oppenheimer residents could not be accommodated in shelters), where were people supposed to go?

The eviction began on Jan. 9 and continued the following day. On Jan. 10, residents were told that they had to pack down their tents, but could stay in the park. There weren’t any outreach workers or social workers present to help support residents or the process

Does any of this seem like it’s in good faith? Does any of this seem like it will actually help?

The city has an obsession with enforcement for enforcement’s sake. When did we as a city and society come to accept the weaponizing of bylaw enforcement as more important than literal survival? When there are no more shelter beds and items like tents and sleeping bags are taken and trashed, how does the city expect people to survive? How do they think this helps or solves homelessness? This behaviour frankly leads us to believe that they are more preoccupied with hiding homelessness than solving it.

Encampments are a highly contentious issue. In late 2023 we saw strong opposition from all sides when the B.C. government tabled new legislation, Bill 45, for municipalities to enforce bylaws around encampments. Municipalities thought it too vague and difficult to evict residents of encampments; advocates criticized the disregard for human rights.

We’re in full support of encampments when shelter alternatives aren’t available: They provide community, access to services, and reduce risk of death by overdose. Dismantling an encampment doesn’t suddenly mean that residents become housed. It means residents are still forced to shelter outdoors, but they are alone and their health and lives are at far higher risk.

Let’s be clear: Encampments are not a solution to homelessness. Sheltering outdoors in a thin tent in wet conditions and sub-zero temperatures is not what we’re calling for as a solution. Encampments provide the best protection when folks have nowhere else to go, but they are not an end goal. We need permanent, affordable, and safe housing.

Until there is an adequate supply of affordable housing that meets the needs of all our neighbours, we implore the city to stop bullying unhoused people out of the only safe spaces they have.

The few hours we spent outside while witnessing the Park Ranger and VPD’s actions on Jan. 10 left us frigid — even with thick coats, gloves and boots on. The cold bit through every layer and we had to keep moving to try to maintain some level of warmth. It’s about to get a whole lot colder, and a lot of people are suddenly without tents, blankets, and sleeping bags.

We ask again: How does hiding homelessness help?

Katie Koncan is director of development and communications and Amanda Burrows is executive-director at First United Church.

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Ministry

Lenten 2024: Art Challenge

Date 16 Feb, 2024

Category Ministry

Lent is a time of prayer and fasting and a time to explore new spiritual practices. One of the most basic spiritual practices that humanity has is our feelings and emotions.

To help us explore and work through complex emotions that accompany grief, Lauren Sanders, Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain, is hosting an art challenge for the Lenten season.

You’re invited to join in this weekly practice as Lauren shares her own painting process and guides us through some “wondering questions” around grief. Feel free to comment your answers to the questions. You can also share your painting on social media with the hashtag #PourOutGrief.

All videos will be posted here. Check back every Wednesday to see the latest one!

Week 1: Grief

Week 2: Denial, Shock, Numbness

Week 3: Pain, Guilt and Shame

Advent and Christmas Calendar 2023

Date 26 Oct, 2023

Category Ministry, Reconciliation in Action

Calendar

This Christmas season, you’re invited to join us for a justice-themed Advent. The Spiritual Care team has put together an Advent Calendar to help us start the work of Call for Justice 18.17 from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Call 18.17 states: “We call upon all governments, service providers, and educators to fund and support the re-education of communities and individuals who have learned to reject 2SLGBTQQIA people, or who deny their important history and contemporary place within communities and in ceremony, and to address transphobia and homophobia in communities (for example, with anti-transphobia and anti homophobia programs), to ensure cultural access for 2SLGBTQQIA people.”

Advent and Christmas Calendar 2023:

Advent and Christmas Calendar 2023

The calendar runs from December 3 to January 5 and features daily actions to help us along the journey to fulfilling Call 18.17. This important work is part of our commitment to putting reconciliation into action and advocating for justice for MMIWG and 2SLGBTQQIA.

Please join us by participating in these daily actions. Each Friday, Lauren Sanders, Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain (Prairie Band Potawatomi/mshkodeni bodéwadminwen, Kickapoo Nation of Kansas/kiikaapoa, African American/Black), will host a Zoom session (link in the calendar) to provide a safe space for deeper discussions.

Learn more about why this Call for Justice is important.

You may also want to download our Advent and Christmas Liturgy for this year.

Advent and Christmas Liturgy 2023

Date 25 Oct, 2023

Category Ministry, Reconciliation in Action

Candle Lighting Liturgy

This year’s Advent and Christmas Candle Lighting Liturgy is available for download below. The liturgies were prepared by Lauren Sanders, Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain for FIRST UNITED (Prairie Band Potawatomi/mshkodeni bodéwadminwen, Kickapoo Nation of Kansas/kiikaapoa, African American/Black), and Rev. Peter Sanders, Pastoral Advisor.

Advent and Christmas Candle Lighting Liturgy 2023:

https://admin.firstunited.ca/app/uploads/2023/10/2023-Advent-and-Christmas-Candle-Lighting-Liturgy.pdf

You may also want to download our Advent and Christmas calendar for this year.

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Newsletters & Toast Talks

Toast Talks: November 2023

Date 7 Nov, 2023

Category Newsletters & Toast Talks

Toast Talks are a series of information sessions during which members of the FIRST UNITED team offer updates, insights, and information about our work to our communities of faith, volunteers, donors, stakeholders, and friends. To make sure you never miss out on invitations to Toast Talks, subscribe to our emails.

For this Fall 2023 edition of Toast Talks, we shared FIRST UNITED news and redevelopment updates, including the newest First Forward PSA and a demolition time-lapse video. We also had more time to share stories and memories from our old building at 320 East Hastings. Watch the video to hear all of the special memories!

Thank you to everyone who shared their memories of the building with us!

We’ve also included the digital version of the fall edition of our First Things First newsletter below:

Toast Talks: July 2023

Date 17 Jul, 2023

Category Newsletters & Toast Talks

Toast Talks are a series of information sessions during which members of the FIRST UNITED team offer updates, insights, and information about our work to our communities of faith, volunteers, donors, stakeholders, and friends. To make sure you never miss out on invitations to Toast Talks, subscribe to our emails.

For our July 2023 Toast Talks, we dedicate time to honour our old building at 320 East Hastings. Interim Executive Director Amanda Burrows shares the latest FIRST UNITED news and redevelopment updates. We’re also joined by Dr. Sarah Marsden, Director of Systems Change and Legal, who shares findings from our BC Eviction Map.

Thank you to everyone who shared their memories of the building with us! Read some below:

From Linda M. Ervin:

In the early 80s First did a needle exchange and provided free feminine hygiene products. The reception staff were the ones who provided those items.

Bob St. John Graham, myself (Linda) with others had a Christmas Eve service where we served and agape meal every Christmas Eve. Coffee would brew while the service was on. One of the people that I assisted gave me $100 every year to buy smoked salmon and John Graham purchased the bagels. Folks lit candles and decorated the tree. It was a great night.

1983 the year BC citizens and workers fought back. First supported the strike and workers, provided meals. We lost and gained donors.

From Lorraine Powell

I attended First United when I started at VST with Rev. Garry Patterson there in 1989. I soon became involved with some of the serving lunch after church. Later I volunteered at WiSH once a week in the evening, and the ladies watched to make sure I was safe in the downtown to catch my bus back to VST. What a special time in ministry that helped me all through ministry.

From Susan DuMoulin

As a member of Canadian Memorial United Church, I enjoyed being part of our In From the Cold Ministry. Congregants would make beef stew which would be taken to the kitchen at First United where, along with vegetables, buttered bread, tea and coffee and ice cream for dessert. On our designated monthly Friday evening, a team of CMUC volunteers would serve people from the DTES community a hot meal during 2 seatings. Often, once people had finished their meals the table servers would sit at their table and visit with the guests. One member of our congregation played the piano during the meals. Those were good times.

From Heather Ross

Well I grew up in the First United Church, but it was the previous building. It was my Dad and his staff with lots of support from many people and agencies who built this last building so I am somewhat sad to see it go. But it served its purpose for a long time. So I have gone through this “unbuilding” and rebuilding process already so know that good things come out of the rubble and the future is filled with hope!

We’ve also included the digital version of the fall edition of our First Things First newsletter below:

Toast Talks: March 2023

Date 17 Mar, 2023

Category Newsletters & Toast Talks

Toast Talks are a series of information sessions during which members of the FIRST UNITED team offer updates, insights, and information about our work to our communities of faith, volunteers, donors, stakeholders, and friends. To make sure you never miss out on invitations to Toast Talks, subscribe to our emails.

At our March 2023 Toast Talks, Interim Executive Director Amanda Burrows shares highlights from our last fiscal year and The Reverend Jennifer Goddard-Sheppard talks about Spiritual Care.

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Reconciliation in Action

FIRST UNITED Supports Calls to Search the Landfill

Date 21 Jul, 2023

Category Reconciliation in Action

The families of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran are calling on the Manitoba government to search the Prairie Green landfill for the remains of their murdered loved ones. FIRST UNITED echoes their calls, and stands in solidarity with Indigenous families, activists, and leaders asking for justice for all missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).

One of our core values is social justice and we strive to put reconciliation into action as an organization—this is why we’re joining the calls for government action, even provinces away. Justice and reconciliation have no borders. Taking action against injustice is all of our responsibility, whether in our backyard or across the country.

We invite you to be an advocate too, to speak out and apply pressure to the Manitoba and federal governments to look for Morgan and Marcedes and return them to their families.

How you can take action:

Read Manitoba, do the right thing. Search the landfills by Tanya Talaga: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-manitoba-do-the-right-thing-search-the-landfills/

Read Reclaiming Power and Place: the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/final-report/

Write to Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, asking her government to action a search at the Prairie Green landfill: https://www.gov.mb.ca/minister/premier/index.html

Visit the United Church of Canada Facebook and Instagram to download and share social media graphics including Facebook page banners, and profile pictures. https://www.facebook.com/UnitedChurchCda

Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day

Date 16 Jun, 2023

Category Reconciliation in Action

Guest post by Avery Delaney (Blackfoot), Indigenous Outreach Coordinator for FIRST UNITED

National Indigenous Peoples Day is an annual celebration that honors the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and contributions of Indigenous communities across Turtle Island (what is commonly known as North America). This day provides a platform to showcase the diverse cultures, languages, foods, arts, music, and dance of Indigenous peoples. Festivals, powwows, cultural events, and workshops are organized to share traditional practices and foster appreciation for Indigenous heritage. These celebrations often involve storytelling, traditional ceremonies, art exhibitions, and performances that highlight the vibrant and distinct Indigenous identities.

The origins of National Indigenous Peoples Day can be traced back to 1982 when the National Indian Brotherhood, now known as the Assembly of First Nations, called for the creation of a national holiday to celebrate Indigenous cultures and achievements. This day also signifies the summer solstice as the longest day of the year. On June 13, 1996, the Governor General of Canada proclaimed June 21st as National Aboriginal Day, which was later renamed National Indigenous Peoples Day in 2017 to better reflect the inclusive nature of the celebration.

One of the primary goals of National Indigenous Peoples Day is to promote education and raise awareness about Indigenous histories, rights, and the ongoing challenges that Indigenous communities across Turtle Island encounter. Educational institutions, museums, community centers, and online platforms play a crucial role in providing resources, workshops, and presentations to encourage the understanding and respect for Indigenous cultures. This day is also a time to reflect on the history of colonization and its impact on Indigenous peoples. By promoting understanding and respect, this day contributes to the ongoing journey of reconciliation, and building stronger relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

I invite you to explore this list of local Indigenous businesses as one way to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day:

Clothing/Jewelry:

Wolf Pack Apparel
Decolonial Clothing
Ay Lelum
LadyBear Designs
Three Sisters by Emma
Scott Wabano
Anishinaabe Bimishimo
Lesley Hampton
Copper Canoe Woman

Beauty/Wellness:

Sisters Sage
Skwalwen
Satya

Food/Coffee:

Spirit Bear Coffee Company
Salmon and Bannock
Mr. Bannock

Content/Education:

Raven Reads
Talaysay Tours

Travel/Tourism:

Iskwew Air
Skwachàys Lodge

Art/Craft:

Spirit Works

Revisiting Our Totem Pole Ceremony

Date 12 Jun, 2023

Category Reconciliation in Action

Our building at 320 East Hastings is currently being demolished and we’re feeling a little nostalgic. Just a little over a year ago, we were moving our programs out of our old building to prepare for hazardous material removal and demolition. Part of that preparation was safely moving the totem pole that was in our dining hall to a temporary location.

This day was very special to us. It’s unusual to take down a totem pole in order to re-raise it, so this was a very unique ceremony. With National Indigenous Peoples Day coming up (June 21st), we wanted to share one way that we got to celebrate Indigenous work and culture.

On May 20, 2022, First United staff worked together to move the totem pole that had been living in the dining hall at 320 East Hastings to the garage of our administrative office. The totem pole was carved by Bernie Williams (Skundaal), of the Haida Gwaii Nation, and other First Nations carvers in 2010. It was a gift for those experiencing homelessness in the Downtown Eastside, and a way to remember the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit people.

Here is a short excerpt from last year’s First Things First Summer Newsletter, detailing the Totem Pole Ceremony:

On January 10, 2010, the pole was raised in our dining hall and unveiled by Elders and Chiefs of the Coast Salish Territory and of the Haida Gwaii Nation. Twelve years later, on May 20, 2022, Bernie Williams helped guide us in taking it down before the building at 320 East Hastings is demolished. Surrounded by a circle of staff, and members of her family, Bernie shared memories of the work done all those years ago. Her nephew John drummed and sang the Coast Salish anthem, a song taught to him by his father. Bernie then called on staff to take the totem pole to its new, temporary location.

Read the full story “Carved With Courage, Moved With Care”


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Recent Updates

16 Feb, 2024
Lenten 2024: Art Challenge
read more
5 Feb, 2024
Residential Tenancy Act Law Reform Platform
read more
17 Jan, 2024
Open Letter: Call on City, Province to meet and plan encampment response
read more