what’s new

NEWS – New Evolution of Wise Storytelling!

In collaboration with the Community Action Initiative and our community partners, RainCity Housing and Support Society has launched a project called NEWS – New Evolution of Wise Storytelling.

The goal of NEWS is to create opportunities for community members and media creators to come together to create inclusive and supportive stories about mental health, as a way to end the stigma associated with mental illness.

To kick off Mental Health Week, on May 7th and 8th, 2013, NEWS is hosting a Learning Exchange. We invite you to participate in this exciting and interactive event!

Listen. Learn. Share: A Learning Exchange

To kick off mental health week, NEWS is hosting a 2-day learning exchange that will bring together community members, media creators, and allies to create dialogue about how mental illness is portrayed in the media and how we can work together towards more socially inclusive ways of sharing stories. There will be interactive panel discussions, breakout sessions, and an art room. This is a free event.

Dates: Tuesday, May 7th and Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
Time: 9:30am – 4:00pm, both days
Location: Chapel Arts Hall- 304 Dunlevy Ave., Vancouver, B.C.

The event will take place on the main floor which is wheelchair accessible. Any sessions that are offered upstairs (non-accessible) will also be offered on the main floor.

There will be delicious food catered by Salmon n’Bannock Bistro and a musical performance by Cris Derksen and edzieOo.

If you are a media person or service provider, please RSVP to Quinn up to a maximum of two persons per organization.

Quinn Bennett, NEWS Project Consultant
E: qbennett@raincityhousing.org
T: 604.345.7163


LGBTQ2S+ housing for youth!

Transgender and gender non-conforming people are much more likely to be experiencing poverty or homeless than the average person, almost twice as many as the general population. Discrimination or harassment from service providers, or rejection from their families and gender segregated shelters can all lead to ending up on the street.

This can also impact other basics people might take for granted, like accessing proper health care or an education. The best way to ensure the safety, proper health, and emotional wellbeing of young LGTBQ2S+ people is by providing housing that respects young people’s identity and life choices. But it’s more than housing and employment. It’s an anti-suicide measure for our young people. It’s about building a community of care for our young people.

What’s the project?

The two year pilot project will provide housing with supports and employment to LGBTQ2S+ youth between 18 and 25 in a residential setting and will utilize a LGBTQ2S+ advisory group to develop best practices with youth. We will connect youth with older members of the LGBTQ2S+ community, the goal being to provide safe, lifelong ‘chosen family’ or mentorship with mutual benefit for all parties.

The project will be evaluated externally by the McCready Centre Society, who have extensive experience with youth homelessness, specifically LGBTQ2S+ homeless youth. This project will be the first in Canada and we want to make sure it’s not the last!

Why is RainCity interested?

RainCity Housing and Support Society has been a leading housing provider since 1982, offering housing, support and outreach to a diverse group of people. While providing these services to specific demographics, such as housing for women and folks with multiple diagnoses, we honour the unique challenges they face due to systemic oppression. We focus on people’s strengths, believe strongly in community involvement, and learn from our experiences, pursuing an anti-oppressive framework that respects the communities we have the pleasure of working with everyday. Our hiring ethic has aided us in developing a unique competency in servicing the LGBTQ2S+ community, increased our knowledge of LGBTQ2S+ barriers, history and queer theory, and led to increased representation within our staff group.

How can I help?

We already have a commitment of half the funds needed thanks to a very generous grant from The Vancouver Foundation. We are seeking matching funds in order to make this project a reality and we’re asking people like you for your help. Your financial support will ensure that LGBTQ2S+ youth can live in a safe, supported environment – the first in Vancouver, the first in Canada!

To donate, contact Fran Romer:

604.215.5991 fromer@raincityhousing.org

To find out more about the project, contact Aaron Munro:

604.375.9130 amunro@raincityhousing.org



We know that volunteers rock, so come out and rock with us!

Join us at the FIRST EVER Downtown Eastside Women’s Rock Camp!

Your all time favourite Girls Rock Camp Vancouver has partnered with our first ever DTES Women’s Rock Camp. And we are REALLY excited!

But we need your help. Volunteers are needed for some or all of the days of the camp. And the deadline is coming up fast!

  • What: DTES Women’s Rock Camp
  • When: June 4, 1pm to 8pm
  • Where: Chapel Arts, 304 Dunley, Vancouver

Visit www.surveymonkey.com/dteswomensrockcamp, fill out the application and we’ll be contacting you with more training details.

We need 10 to 12 volunteers with musical experience, and 10 to 12 volunteers to help with everything that happens behind the scenes. You’ll be joining RainCity support staff and a core group of Girls Rock Camp organizers to make this the most amazing rock camp ever! Transgendered, Gender Variant and Gender Queer folks are more than welcome!

Benefits include:

  1. Inspirational and information rich training by long time social advocate Vikki Reynolds, PHD, RCC and Hayley Sinclair, Peer Programs Coordinator, Vancouver Coastal Health.
  2. Food!
  3. Probably the MOST FUN EVER and an opportunity to work AND learn from some of the toughest and most rad campers you can ever hope to meet!

If you have any questions about volunteering or the camp itself, you can contact Aaron, Tara, or Danielle.

Thanks for volunteering!


“…something right is happening.”

That’s what Executive Director Mark Smith said when he was asked by CNN about how Vancouver (and RainCity Housing) is addressing homelessness. He was referring to how many more people were inside – almost 80% more – when comparing the numbers from the latest Metro Vancouver Homelessness Count (2011) to the count that was done in 2008.

While it isn’t a home, providing a low barrier shelter a great way to bring people inside that have been living on the street for years. Once inside, a person can stop wondering where the next meal is coming from, or if they’ll be safe when they’re sleeping, and start to focus on locating affordable housing, like our Lux Apartments, or make friends that can become roommates, and then pool their resources in order to make a place more affordable.

Providing low barrier shelters and building new housing like the Lux or the Budzey Building – these are great ways to address homelessness!

What else can Vancouver do to end homelessness?

International Women’s Day is Good News

Good news! It’s the 101st International Women’s Day, and there are many ways to celebrate. You can attend the City of Vancouver’s Remarkable Women event this evening, or the Women in Film Festival that starts today, and many others.

Bad news – last week the Metro Vancouver Homelessness Count released their final numbers, and while the overall numbers didn’t change, the female share of the homeless population increased. In the 2005 count, one in four counted was female but in 2011 it was nearly one in three. And the number of homeless families counted increased; 56 homeless families with 54 children were found, the highest number of families ever recorded in a Count, the majority of these families led by single mothers.

Good news! In only a few short months we’ll be breaking ground for our newest and biggest building, the Budzey Building (named after Lorna Budzey). 147 units! And the best part? All the units are for women! 101 units will be studio suites for women on their own, and 46 units will be two and three bedroom units for single mother led families. We’re really excited about this, as both the building and the women and families living there will have a positively huge (and hugely positive) impact on the Downtown Eastside.

What good news will you celebrate on International Women’s Day?


So much Pride, so many involved!

This year marks our third year participating in Vancouver Pride, and each time it just gets better. And that’s entirely because of all the great people that provided their time, energy and unique talents that made it happen.


We had Jaime and Catherine get supplies from Home Depot and then assemble and brighten up our ‘house’.


We had Dueck provide a truck and swag for the parade.


The Parade, of course! We had staff, friends, family, friends of family, spouses, and – just like last year – the amazing Carnival Band!

And finally:

Our booth at Sunset Beach. Many people dropped by to show support, ask questions, or just wish us a ‘Happy Pride!’ Yes, there are no people in these pictures – that’s cuz when we were talking with folks we couldn’t take the pictures!

There are many more pics at our Flickr page, thanks to Jean Cueta, Vancouver-based photographer extraordinaire. And you should check out the Carnival Band’s Flickr page as well. And I almost forgot – there are videos! Below is just one clip, courtesy of ‘butchnews’. There are more video links at our Pride 2011 page. Happy Pride!!


Gardening, Running, and Ground Breaking

It’s been a little busy at RainCity Housing lately, which is strange. The so called summer months are typically quiet in our part of the world, the onset of summer tending to slow things down a tad. Not so this year.

First up – the amazingly beautiful wall garden at Princess Rooms! We banded together with the Environmental Youth Alliance again and after some clever water engineering and some elbow grease, Princess Avenue is now that much prettier. Most of the plants are edible, and will end up in the fabulous meals provided inside via the Princess Rooms meal program. Never mind a 100 mile diet – this is a 100 meter one! Oh, and we’re working hard with our partners at Hollyburn Properties to make sure this will be a sustainable project.

Second – The Scotia Bank Half Marathon. You’d think spending a few hours at a booth in Stanley Park would be boring. You’d be wrong. The first runners crossed the finish line before the commentators were even ready. After that it was one big endorphin high that permeated the booth village. People refuelling on bananas and cookies, asking with sincere interest “What does RainCity do?” or telling us “What you guys do is great! Keep it up!” Check out the pics on our facebook page. We can’t wait to participate again next year, and Bill, our communications guy, says he’s doing the half. We’ll hold ‘em to it.

Last and definitely not least – the 215 West 2nd Ground Breaking! Where else can you experience a Coast Salish blessing, shovels, hard hats, speeches from Minister Rich Coleman, Mayor Gregor Robertson and other dignitaries, and live music? At a RainCity Housing Ground Breaking!

This particular ground breaking was extra special as we’re partnering with Katherine Sanford Housing Society. We like partnerships, as they go a long way in making communities stronger.

BC Housing will be providing the bricks and mortar monies and some staffing monies, the City of Vancouver provides the property, and BC Housing will be providing staffing monies as well. You can visit our facebook page to see photos (we hope you ‘like’ them) and the video generously shared by BC Housing.

Now that we’ve checked all those off the ‘to do’ list, what’s next?


A snapshot of homelessness

Last week the preliminary numbers were released from the Metro Vancouver Homeless Count 2011, and if you haven’t already heard there were a number of surprises. For the first time since the count began in 2002 there was a decrease, albeit a small one, in the overall numbers (1%) and a big decrease in unsheltered homeless (54%), but an increase in homeless youth (almost 30%). Our Associate Director Sean Spear spoke on CBC’s BC Almanac about the count and what we experience at RainCity.

So why the changes? Well, the easy part to explain is there were just more spaces inside than during the last count. For the last three years RainCity Housing has provided temporary shelters in three different neighbourhoods intentionally outside Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in order to address the homeless populations in those neighbourhoods and with much success. Hundreds of the individuals staying at these shelters went on to find permanent housing. Many people were coming inside for the first time in years.

The majority of the people staying at our shelter near Granville Street were under 30, and many of those were even younger. The count is getting more sophisticated in terms of connecting with youth, but we are also seeing more people under25 accessing our services and housing, and feeling more comfortable doing so, and therefore more visible for the count.

And the small decrease in over homeless numbers? The City and the Province have been actively creating purpose built housing throughout Vancouver, with about 1500 units completed and over another 1000 coming online over the next 2 to 3 years. Our Housing First ACT Team and the rest of the At Home/Chez Soi program provides subsidies for 200 people so they can afford to live anywhere in the city, not just the Downtown Eastside. The fact that the number hasn’t increased is an amazing sign, as the overall population has increased by 8% since the last count, and the counts done in 2005 and 2008 found large increases in the homeless population (thanks, Frances!).

But it’s important to remember that:

  • Researchers say the actual numbers can be up to three times as high as the snapshot 24 hour count, due to people staying with relatives, couch surfing or just really hard to find.
  • Women are still the invisible homeless, where the actual numbers aren’t accurate as there are still many barriers.
  • The transgender community is over represented in homeless populations.

Can we collectively pat ourselves on the back? Yes. Nonprofits, the City and the Province, and organizations like Streetohome have made huge steps the right direction. But there’s still a lot more work to be done. Not only is more affordable and supported housing still needed, as a society we need to look at why homelessness is an issue and continue to find solutions until the day there really is a home for every person.

Tell what you think a solution to end homelessness could be.


The FYI on YPI

What are they teaching kids in school these days? Would you believe me if I told you they might be learning about social awareness and how to give back to the community? It’s true! The Youth and Philanthropy Initiative, or YPI, has been part of the high school curriculum (usually grade ten) here in Canada for a number of years now, and is also taught in the UK and the US.

Here’s how it works. Students work together in groups to find out the diverse social needs of their community and then select a social need that they are passionate about. They research local, grassroots, social providers whose aim is to help members of the community faced with that specific need, and then pick one charity they feel is having a positive impact on the community.

Once the research is complete, groups do a short presentation on their charity and how a grant would help it better serve its clients. A group from each class is chosen to conduct a final presentation in front of their entire school and a judging panel, most of whom are fellow students. Finally, the team with the most compelling presentation wins a $5,000 grant which is awarded directly to the chosen charity.

So each term we get a few groups of students calling and wanting to find out what we do at RainCity Housing. And every time it’s a new experience for me and I never grow tired of it, as each group has different ideas and ways of expressing them. Some want to interview our staff on video, some want to visit our different sites, but all of these amazing students are genuinely curious about how we can end homelessness and what can be actually done. When I was 15, I hadn’t even heard of the term homelessness, let alone want to do something about it.

Then the day came when I got a phone call from some very excited students. They had me on speaker phone and they were all talking at once, but it was easy it make out “We won! We won!” as all three took turns saying it. They also kept thanking me and RainCity Housing. “But you guys did all the work,” I said. “It was your presentation that won!”

Still, they thanked me once more, and invited me to their school to watch their presentation to the rest of the school staff.





Alina, Allie and Mathew from Cariboo Secondary School, Burnaby, BC with review of cialis daily their $5000 cheque!






Sadly, not every group of students will be able to win $5000 for their chosen charity. But we’re all the wealthier for it because of the change that can take place. Because real change takes place when people of any age start to find out what role they can play in dispelling myths, learning about homelessness (in this instance), and sharing that information with family and friends.

How will you create change?


The women at Vivian want their stories heard.

A few weeks ago there was an article with the women living at the Vivian, because it was important to find out what they thought and if they wanted to share their side of the story. The women living at the ‘Viv’ arranged a meeting to express their concerns about the article, and two of the women decided to write letters to the editor, one of which was edited and published. You can read the scanned letter in its entirety here.

Here is the unpublished letter that was dictated to a Vivian staff member:

Dear Courier:

My name is Shannon, I’m 25, I moved into the Vivian just before Christmas and that would have been my first Christmas that I got gifts and got experience a Christmas for the first time in my whole life.

I got onto the methadone program here and I see my son every Saturday, something I wasn’t able to do this before. I enjoy getting to be a mum for my son. The staff give me the extra encouragement to stay healthy and get stable, get on methadone so I can be stable enough to see my son once a week.

This place done a lot of good for me. I’ve learned to be a better person and be more stable. I actually have a home. I’m learning how to do things that I couldn’t do before. For one, I’m learning job-training skills. I’m learning how to be more independent and interact with people. I’m learning a lot about respecting others and that we all live here and work together. This is our home. It’s a safe place for all of us. If we didn’t have this here we wouldn’t have nothing. It’s a very positive place.

I feel like I have more self-esteem. I know what it’s like to be cared about and wanted. To feel safe and that I have my own home, because this is my home. The staff come here everyday to help out one-on-one. People are not living here in a hotel, it’s a home.

I think it’s great to have the support of the staff. I really like the art that we do and all the activities. We have fun and just get to relax.

It’s a really good place. I’ve told other friends I know who are unsafe to live here. It’s a place that I would recommend to people. It gives you a chance to know what success feels like. You don’t feel put down or shut out.

Shannon G

Not only do women living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside need to have safe, supported housing, they need to have their voices heard. Thank you Laura Anne and Shannon for sharing your stories. And thank you for taking the time to listen.