“When you’re out on the streets, you know … it’s cold. Wet. You’re dirty. You wander the streets day and night just to try to stay warm. You feel like you’re useless. You’re worthless.”
That’s what Angelo, a member of our community, said when he reflected on the three years that he, his wife Sandy, and their dog Kale spent living on the streets of the Downtown Eastside.
In January of 2020, just before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, they were living in a tent near Pacific Central Station, with nothing but a small propane heater to guard them from the damp and cold.
The tent leaked. Their bed was always wet. Kale shivered endlessly. And Sandy’s health was poor.
Then someone told them to go to FIRST UNITED, saying, “They can help.” And we did.
But demand for our services has outgrown our space, and the space itself is falling into disrepair. In order to respond to the direct and growing needs of our community, we are redeveloping our site into a multi-storey, multipurpose space with four floors of community amenities and seven floors of below-market housing.
Will you join us to move First Forward and make a gift to help us triple the size of our current facility and provide community, connection and care to more folks like Angelo and Sandy—so that they can thrive, too?
“When we found FIRST UNITED,” says Angelo, “it was an absolute blessing. Without their help, I don’t know if we’d still be here.”
That winter, we helped Sandy, Angelo and Kale find shelter. Hot showers. Dry socks. Three meals a day. Medical care. And, six months later, housing.
“It makes you feel like, like a complete human again. It made me feel like there was actually someone out there that cared.”
Homelessness. Opioids. Covid-19. These are the compounding crises faced by our neighbours in the Downtown Eastside, many of whom also face poverty, trauma, and violence.
Grief is a constant companion in the Downtown Eastside.
But so, too, is resilience.
You can see it in Angelo’s smile. In the glint of his eyes. More than a year later, he and Sandy have maintained their housing, and are doing well. “We have a roof over our heads. We have food in the fridge. We’re happy.” When we talk about our vision, “a neighbourhood where every person’s worth is celebrated and all people thrive,” this is what we mean.
We believe that all people, regardless of circumstance, deserve to be treated with dignity, and we’re redeveloping our site at 320 East Hastings to do just that.
We need your help now more than ever, whether you give $5, $50 or $500, you can’t put a price on dignity. But you can help us build a space that embodies it.
“That building. It needs to be here,” says Angelo. “We needed FIRST’s help to get back on our feet and help us move forward. But they need your help—that’s how they help people like us— with your help.”
This is what you’re helping us do when you make a contribution to our First Forward Building Connections Campaign. We can’t do it alone.
By making a gift, you can support the rejuvenation and growth of a neighbourhood where every person thrives and everyone’s worth is celebrated.
You can empower people to build better futures for themselves, and help us provide community, connection, and care for decades to come.
“If you can see it in your heart to give, you should know that your help could change somebody’s life. I know it changed mine.”
-Angelo, FIRST UNITED community member
We hope you’ll join us to move First Forward.
Our First Forward building campaign goal is $30 million, and we’re over 75% there! If you can stretch yourself further, please consider giving towards our programs as well. You can’t put a price on dignity. Give what you can.