BCBusiness + Salvation Army

EastsideSalvation Army

A beacon of hope, a light in the dark—Vancouver Harbour Light has anchored The Salvation Army’s community outreach efforts in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) for more than 60 years. Its respected and proven service offering draws individuals seeking help and hope from across BC, but its physical location—a collection of four adjacent buildings that date back to the 1920s—has reached the end of its operational life.

As a result, the organization decided to make its largest capital investment in Canada and will begin construction on a new home for Vancouver Habour Light in the spring of 2021. It will offer the best and latest in wrap-around care and become a transforming influence in the community. The total project cost is nearly $100 million. The Army has support from all three levels of government and is making its own financial commitment. The remaining $23 million depends on a private sector capital campaign called Nine Stories of Hope, a play on words representing stories of client successes associated with each storey of the building.

“We have been contributing to the well-being of the community for over six decades and this building will allow us to do that for another six,” says Mike Leland, campaign director. “With a surging opioid crisis and a record number of homeless in our province, this project is a must.”

The campaign is spearheaded by senior leaders on The Salvation Army’s board of directors—five influential and accomplished businesspeople who bring expertise from sectors ranging from property development to finance.

The campaign cabinet consists of Robert McFarlane, corporate director; Tom Skidmore, president and CEO of Skidmore Development Group; George Hungerford, partner at Hungerford Properties; Kelly Heed, vice-chairman of Colliers; and Kathy McGarrigle, corporate director.

“Our board has been instrumental in our commitment to changing the lives of people in this province for decades,” Leland says. “It is only natural to look to them to lead us into the future.”

Located at 130 E. Cordova St., the nine-storey, 144,000-square-foot building will allow program consolidation, adequate and appropriate space, and provide practical and compassionate support to the community’s most vulnerable. Its programming will include a community meal program, vocational training, counselling, life skills and career development, addictions treatment, and outreach services. It will include 46 transitional and long-term housing units, and 300 beds divided between emergency shelter, seasonal mats, a community correctional facility, affordable housing, and treatment beds for men and women. 

Women’s Giving Circle

An essential part of the development will be an addiction treatment program exclusively serving women. The program will occupy the building’s third floor and offer 18 treatment beds and four transitional housing units. Board members Kathy McGarrigle and Sabine Kempe are chair and vice-chair leading a sub-campaign called Women’s Giving Circle, and they are looking for others to walk with them on this journey.

McGarrigle says The Salvation Army is the largest non-governmental provider of direct social services in Canada and one of the first adopters of addiction programs for women in this province. “They are passionate about the issue of helping women through addiction, and they quietly go about doing extremely difficult work, bringing hope to those who have very little,” she says.

Forty percent of the DTES population is women, and their challenges are different from those experienced by men. Trauma, violence, exploitation, physical, mental, and sexual abuse, survival sex work, complex family structure issues, and responsibility for children create more complex barriers for women and require specialized support.

Kempe struggles to understand why there aren’t more services for women dealing with addiction. “For women, the wait for treatment is up to three months,” she says. “Navigating an addiction is hard enough; imagine doing that not knowing where to go or what questions to ask. That is where my passion for this project comes from.”

The Women’s Giving Circle calls on women in the business community for help.

“Women supporting women is not a new concept, but it continues to evolve,” Kempe says. “The value of the mentoring and coaching relationship that exists in the business environment is mirrored in women going through recovery.”

“From a corporate perspective, when you think of women supporting women, it is more around helping women progress in their careers, but there is help needed on a broader scale,” McGarrigle says.

“Addiction, abuse, sex trafficking—these are not sexy topics for corporations to talk about, but it is happening all over. The women facing these issues don’t have a voice. Any voice we can give, anything we can do to shine the spotlight these issues can change lives.”

For more information or to get involved with the project contact Karenina Trinidad at info@ninestoriesofhope.org

Created by BCBusiness in partnership with Salvation Army