“You can’t understand being homeless or being an addict without hanging out with them or being one of them,” Martin says.
He described the day-to-day struggles of homelessness and the exhaustion that many people who are living on the streets experience.
“You’re trying to survive in the streets and you just can’t find a place to sleep. You’re wet and you’re tired…You get robbed…You’re just worn out.”
Martin is a familiar face to us at FIRST UNITED.
Five years ago, we served as a sanctuary for him when he stayed in our shelter for six months. He first stumbled along our old church building on Hastings while looking for soup and coffee.
“A lot of good things you’re doing,” he tells me.
What’s important to him is that our services are low barrier and don’t have restrictions or requirements, compared to other service providers in the area.
Martin is just one of thousands in the Downtown Eastside who rely on FIRST UNITED to survive each year. But we urgently need your help so we can continue our work in the community.
Will you give a gift today? Your gift will help provide essential services, healing, and community connection to our neighbours who need it. Plus, every dollar you give will be matched up to $219,000 until December 31!
Martin is a friendly man, but he tells it like it is and isn’t one to mince words.
He’s told me many times about how he appreciates that FIRST is welcoming and accepting of all.
One of our values is acceptance, so when Martin says he trusts our organization and staff, it means a lot to me personally.
We treat everyone with dignity and compassion, no matter their background, race, gender identity, sexuality, or religion. We believe in caring for people no matter who they are. We meet people where they’re at and offer help when they ask.
As someone who’s sought services in the community for a long time, Martin’s had experiences with other service providers that didn’t make him feel as accepted.
He wouldn’t describe himself as religious, and one thing he values about us is that we provide help without trying to convert or change people.
We believe that if someone wants support through spiritual care—sure! We put them in touch with the ministry team. But if they don’t, that’s ok too.
We respect everyone’s beliefs and let them tell us what they need. Not the other way around.
Martin appreciates that there are no conditions or strings attached to our services, like when we serve free lunch for community members.
“FIRST’s meals are great. There’s no BS here. You pick up your food and you go. You can go back for seconds, too.”
When he stayed at our shelter, he liked that his freedom to be independent wasn’t compromised. He could still come back to the shelter during the day—when most other shelters would only allow residents in at night—if he needed to stay out of the rain.
Although Martin doesn’t stay at our shelter anymore, I see him regularly at the Community Help Desk when he stops by to pick up his mail.
“FIRST UNITED is my mailing address,” he tells people.
For Martin and others who don’t have a permanent address, our Mail and Phone program helps them stay connected and gives them access to critical services that require a fixed address. They can send and receive important mail like cheques, and apply for things like get ID, jobs, or file taxes.
“FIRST UNITED will use your money for good reasons and won’t steal it. They do different services; they’re not putting it in their own pockets. That money is not going to disappear.”
Martin has lived in the DTES for years and knows what it’s like to seek help from places that require you to jump through hoops just to get a meal or bed to sleep in.
And when you’re cold and tired and hungry that’s the last thing you should have to do.
At FIRST, we just jump in and help.
But we need your help to do that. Will you give today?
Your generosity will help provide people like Martin with the services necessary to survive.
We need your help to be able to provide care, compassion, and dignity to our neighbours in the Downtown Eastside. Honestly…we can’t do it alone.