The official groundbreaking ceremony for Union Gospel Mission’s (UGM) new Women and Families Centre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside happened this morning, marking the charity’s largest expansion in 78 years.
This project at a cost of $35.5 million is a redevelopment of UGM’s existing facility at 616 East Cordova Street – the southeast corner of the intersection of East Cordova Street and Princess Avenue.
Designed by NSDA Architects, the redevelopment will create a new seven-storey building with 135 beds — up from the previous three-storey building’s 21 beds. The 77,000-sq-ft building on the 18,300-sq-ft lot will provide 63 additional beds, plus new daycare spaces, emergency supports, and a long-term addiction program for women.
The building is L-shaped to allow for a large south-facing communal courtyard along the laneway. There are also children’s play areas on the top floor as part of the daycare.
“This new building will not only save lives, but change the trajectory of entire families for generations,” said UGM president Bill Mollard, in a statement. “It means fewer children in poverty, fewer women on the street, and a future for families who are now struggling to find housing.”
Funding for the project is provided by the provincial government ($14.5 million), federal government ($11.375 million), City of Vancouver ($1.6 million in funding and $1.1 million in development cost levy waivers), Streetohome Foundation ($720,000), and various private donations.
“When I was homeless it was horrible, but my life was transformed at UGM and I know this new building will help others like me,” said former UGM guest and single mother Emily Surrette, who was on BC streets for more than two years, in a release.
“I’m really excited about the new building because it’s essentially a one-stop shop: daycare, treatment, housing, all of these things.”
UGM has seven locations across the Lower Mainland.