With Thanksgiving around the corner, the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) is gearing for a busy long weekend. The organization says it will be serving 3,000 meals to those in need and volunteers like Jenna Woytiuk will be on the front lines ready to help.
Woytiuk knows first-hand what it is like to be homeless. Not too long ago, the 30-year-old was living on the streets, struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
“Homelessness was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced,” she says. “I was just scared for my life, that nothing would get better. There was no hope inside me. I was in a dark tunnel and there was no end to it. I didn’t know that I would get out of it.”
She ended up living at a homeless camp near Squamish and it was there where she heard about UGM’s Sanctuary– a safe shelter for women in the Downtown Eastside. Woytiuk relocated to the Sanctuary and was able to get her life on track.
“I was so happy. I cried the whole day I got there,” says Jenna. “I was so excited and everyone was like, we’re going to help you now. You’re safe here…I don’t know where I would be without UGM and I’m really looking forward to returning the favour this Thanksgiving.”
Woytiuk now works as a part-time cook at UGM and she hopes her story will inspire others.
This Thanksgiving, UGM will be serving over 2500 pounds of turkey (the equivalent of 130 turkeys), 800 pounds of mashed potatoes, and 600 pumpkin pies.
“Thousands of people will enter our doors this Thanksgiving who – like Jenna did – feel unsafe and forgotten,” says UGM President Bill Mollard. “Once they come and find care, we hope they’ll connect to our life-changing programs.”