COVID-19 Response October 2020 Update (revised November 9)

Corona Virus Microscope Image

NEW: Due to the public health order issued on Nov 7, 2020, we’ve made temporary changes to the following information, dated Nov 9 to Nov 23 and in bold font.

Hello to everyone! We’ve been keeping our heads down, working hard during the pandemic, and wanted to provide an update on how we’re addressing COVID-19 at RainCity Housing, while at the same time address the ongoing opioid poisoning epidemic, in order to make it as safe as we can for the program participants and our staff every day.

We continue to regularly monitor developments related to COVID-19 and rely on information from the BC Centre for Disease Control and public health to guide our work in this area.

WHAT WE’RE DOING:

  • Each of our sites has an Individual Pandemic Plan to respond to the ongoing situation.
  • All staff are provided with PPE (personal protective equipment) and have access to detailed information about how and when to use various forms of PPE.
  • Signage has been posted widely at all of our sites with recommended hygiene practices for workers, guests and the people we support.
  • Hand sanitizer and soap dispensers are available at all programs.
  • Plexiglass guards have been installed at the front desks in all of our buildings to make it possible to have necessary conversations with the people we are supporting.  
  • Continued enhanced infection control protocols are in place that include:
    • frequent regular surface cleaning at all of our sites, particularly at high contact points;
    • staff wear masks throughout their shifts;
    • Guests and program participants are encouraged to wear masks in all common areas of our buildings and to maintain physical distance;
    • Masks are available at all sites for distribution, upon request, to program participants and guests.
  • Nov 9 to Nov 23 – there will no in-person staff meetings. All will be conducted remotely.
  • Nov 9 to Nov 23 – our Indigenous Services and Peer Services staff will reduce site visits to essential visits only.
  • Nov 9 to Nov 23 – there will be minimum staffing at our 616 Powell Administration offices with as many people as possible working from home.
  • We have protocols and procedures in place for when a program participant or staff member tests positive and follow public health direction.

We continue to react to this situation and how it changes in real time, recognizing the possibility of receiving new information and new approaches to complex issues and ways to solve new problems every day.

Our exceptional and creative team of staff continue in their tireless work during every shift in the midst of not one but two health emergencies – thank you! And who constantly step up for each other and for the people we support.

Ways You Can Help

NOTE: from Nov 9 to Nov 23 we will not be able to accept donations in person.

If you are some of the amazing people who want to donate items to any of our sites, we are accepting donations of clothes and household items such as:

  • New socks
  • Blankets
  • Pillows
  • Towels
  • Shoes
  • Toiletries
  • Books

Please email me (Bill) at bbriscall@raincityhousing.org and provide a list of what you have in mind, and the community where you live. That way, I can make sure the right stuff is getting to the right program that is closest to you. Please note that we ARE NOT accepting food at this time, and we are unable to pick up items from you.  

If you are wanting to support us in other ways, one can always donate safely and securely from their own home by visiting our direct donation page. Huge thanks to all of you who donate to us and make it possible for us to respond even faster to this ongoing crisis.

Again, thank you for your ongoing support during these very interesting and intense times!

Pendants Provide Purpose during a Pandemic

“They were very popular and sold out in less than 2 days. I completely ran out of materials and was even taking apart my old ones to re-construct the new!”

Tina Pali makes beautiful pendants, a creative outlet that combines many of her passions – art, the outdoors, even her husband! – and she found a way her pendants can make a positive impact during these strange times.  

Our Communications and Fund Development Manager, Bill Briscall, wanted to know more about this amazing person and how the Dr. Bonnie Henry pendants came to be. Tina agreed to a short interview and we wanted to share it with you. 

Bill: Where is your home? 

Tina: I’m originally from Victoria, but have lived most of my adult life in the Lower Mainland. I’m a retired teacher and now live in Steveston.

B: How long have you been creating pendants? 

T: Since I retired 2 years ago I’ve been creating pendants from nature photos. My husband Frank is a professional photographer and has thousands wildlife photos to choose from. I have another friend that takes gorgeous florals that she kindly lets me use. Then there’s me with my iPhone taking random shots of things like tree bark.

B: What do like most about this type of artwork? 

T: Being a condo dweller, I like that it’s clean and doesn’t take up a lot of space. I’ve always loved being outdoors and appreciate the beauty in nature. I also really enjoy taking photos of my pendants to post on my instagram page @paliware.

B: How did you come up with the idea of making  Dr. Bonnie Henry pendants?

T: Since the beginning of the pandemic I had wanted to help in some way where I could use my skills. One day I saw a post of a painting of Dr. Bonnie’s message “Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe” created in a such colourful and playful way. I immediately thought that it would make a great pendant and I could sell them to raise money for charity. I contacted the artist (Sharon Montgomery) who kindly gave me permission to make a few pendants if it was for charity. Word got out and in less than 24 hours I was sold out and donated all the proceeds to the Richmond School District meals program.


I was on a roll, so I thought I should try to raise more money with a new pendant. I searched through my photos and came across our Lions Gate Bridge rising above the clouds. I knew it was going to be the perfect backdrop for Dr. Bonnie’s message. They were very popular and sold out in less than 2 days. I completely ran out of materials and was even taking apart my old ones to re-construct the new!

B: How did you hear about RainCity and the ACT Team?

T: I taught grade 6 and 7 with Jerry who is the husband of Gina Parhar (head of RainCity’s ACT Team). I knew Gina’s job involved supporting some very important people in the community so I asked her if they needed any money….of course she said “Yes”!

B: How are you getting through the pandemic?

T: Being retired, this is not a huge transition for me, as I’m used to occupying my time outside of working. I’m an active person so I stay in shape with pilates, yoga, walking. I’m a long time swimmer so I’m really missing the opening of Kits Pool.

B: What’s the first thing you’ll do when it’s over?

T: Hug my loved ones. And go swimming!

Thank you, Tina, for creating art, raising awareness, and finding a way to give back to the community during an unprecedented time!

You can see more of Tina’s beautiful work at @paliware over on Instagram, including a time-lapse video of her making the Dr. Bonnie Henry pendant – check it out!

RainCity’s response to COVID-19

We wanted to let you know how we’re addressing COVID-19 at RainCity Housing in order to make it as safe as we can for the residents and participants that we work with on a daily basis.

We are regularly monitoring developments that may be related to COVID-19 and are relying on information from the BC Centre for Disease Control and local health authorities for guidance and recommendations to shape our revised operational practices at RainCity Housing.

HERE’S WHAT WE’RE DOING:

  • Enhanced infection control protocols for the people we support and our staff that include:
    • more frequent regular surface cleaning at all of our sites, particularly at high contact points (handrails, door handles, computers, counters in common areas);
    • frequent handwashing with soap for 20 seconds.
  • Sneeze guards have been installed at the front desks in all of our buildings to make it possible to have necessary conversations with the people we’re supporting.   
  • All of our building staff are now wearing masks throughout their shifts. 
  • All staff are provided with PPE (personal protective equipment) and the protocols for proper use.
  • Signage has been posted widely at all of our sites with recommended hygiene practices for the people we support, including refraining from touching, kissing, hugging and handshaking.
  • Hand sanitizer and soap dispensers are being replenished regularly. 
  • All staff meetings and other non-essential gatherings or events at all of our sites have been cancelled.
  • Our Administration (Payroll, Finance, Human Resources, Information Systems) and daily operations that provide food and administer medication will continue to run safely in order to support our programs and staff teams over the coming weeks.
  • Individual Pandemic Plans have been developed for each of our programs to respond to the ongoing situation.
  • Staff who can work from home will do so more often.
  • Staff are to stay home if they feel unwell.
  • Guests are no longer admitted at all of our locations, apart from essential services and deliveries.

Like all frontline organizations, we are reacting to this situation and how it changes in real time, and each day that goes by can often mean new information and new approaches to complex issues and ways to solve new problems.

We are extremely fortunate to have an exceptional and creative group of staff who are showing up each day for each other and for the people we support.

Ways You Can Help

If you are some of the amazing people who want to donate items to any of our sites, we kindly ask that you please hold on to them during these unique circumstances. Once the Health Authorities provide new information that includes relaxed or removed protocol, it will be safe to contact us with items or drop off at sites. 

If you are wanting to support us in other ways, one can always donate safely and securely from their own home by visiting our direct donation page. Huge thanks to all of you who donate to us and make it possible for us to respond even faster to this crisis.

Our social media channels will be updating any other real time measures we may need to take. 

Thank you for your ongoing support during these very interesting and intense times.

Can a Construction Company and a Non-Profit share values?

L to R: Pierre Pomerleau – President & CEO, Bradley Gunnlaugson – Regional Director, Daniel Lessard – Executive VP, Gordon Mann, Catharine Hume – RainCity Co-Executive Director, Francis Pomerleau – Chief Executive

This past Wednesday RainCity was invited to attend Pomerleau’s grand opening of its new office in Vancouver. Pomerleau showed attendees how they develop and adopt innovative technology by providing virtual reality goggles for an exclusive walkthrough experience of some of Pomerleau’s key projects. Bill, our Fund Development and Comms person, tried the VR goggles and we’re happy to say he didn’t faint.

At the event Pomerleau presented us with a HUGE cheque – both in size and dollars – for $20,000! We were selected by the employees of this new Vancouver office as part of an internal contest. It feels wonderful that the people who work and play right here in Vancouver got to choose a Vancouver based non-profit! Thank you, Pomerleau!!

Gordon R. Mann, Senior Vice President, Construction, shared how important it is for Pomerleau to be giving back to the communities where they work.

“Establishing ourselves in the BC community means more to us than just doing business. It also means giving back and playing a key role in making our community a better place. The special alignment between RainCity Housing and Pomerleau’s values were key to our employees’ choice, and we couldn’t be prouder to support them as they strive to reach new heights,” concluded Mr. Mann.

We hope to live up to their support. And while it may seem strange to hear someone say that the values of a non-profit align with a large corporate construction company, it’s true! Like them, we work closely and creatively with people, are able to adapt to new situations, and determine the best solution for each person’s unique situation. It’s important to both organizations to establish strong relationships with people we work with in order to build trust and earn respect. And we both seek ways to innovate how we do our work in order to contribute to more positive outcomes throughout our respective sectors.

Two entities, different sectors, but both trying to provide the best possible work, support and service that they can.  

Winter Chills, Winter Thanks!

On Dec 20 Terry (left) and Lori Teng dropped off these items for folks living and staying at 3030 Gordon in Coquitlam.

Whether you were in the heart of Downtown Vancouver, or on the Sunshine Coast, there were some really cold days this winter. But our neighbours and supporters stepped up in so many ways in a lot of the communities where we provide housing and shelter. And not just leading up to Christmas – we’ve been getting donations of food, warm clothing, waterproof footwear, and so many other items throughout December AND January that we wanted to thank folks again. 

Here are some of the people and organizations that dug deep and were able to provide the kind of stuff that people really needed: thanks to Gina from Deep Cove who reached out via social media to pull together funds and purchased food and crucial clothing for the tenants at Windchimes in Vancouver; thanks to Terry and Lori Teng, Golds Gym Poco Group Fitness Fanatics, and the Fireside CCBC for their food and clothing fundraiser for the people staying and living at 3030 Gordon in Coquitlam; thanks to Acrteryx Vancouver for the donations of new gloves, toques and scarves for people at our Triage Shelter in Vancouver; thanks to the Weekly Arkaya Men’s Circle for delivering food to the people at our Gibsons Shelter on the Sunshine Coast; and thanks to GRIP for their donations from the Tri-Cities community for the people living and staying at 3030 Gordon in Coquitlam.

Gina dropped off all of this amazement – and more – to our Windchimes tenants on Dec 19.
Bill, our Fund Development & Comms person (left) picking up brand new toques, gloves and scarves from Acrteryx Vancouver on Jan 10.
On Jan 12 the Weekly Arkaya Men’s Circle delivered food to our Gibsons Shelter on the Sunshine Coast.
Jashan Singh Randhawa (left) and Susanna Piasecki (right) drop off donations on Jan 22 to Jenn and her team at 3030 Gordon in Coquitlam for the folks living and staying there.

For all of this and so much more, and the huge amount of donated funds we received during the winter months – thank you, thank you, thank you! You’ve definitely warmed the chills away! 

The Kids Are More Than Alright!

From top right, counterclockwise: Chloe at our LGBTQ2S+ Youth office, Vivian at our Chilliwack Modular Housing, Ming at our Winter Shelter, and the scarves Ming made.

Today’s youth can remind us of what is truly important, and that anyone – at any age – can make a difference. These three youth were too young to vote or run a business so they each found different ways to support others. For her 6th birthday Vivian asked for donations instead of gifts and raised over $200! Chloe, rather than receive Christmas gifts, asked for donations and raised $365! And Ming, knowing people can get cold and can feel forgotten during the winter, knitted scarves for everyone staying at our Winter Response Shelter.

A huge shout out to all of the people in these young people’s lives who set examples and/or have talked about the importance of giving back and building community. An even bigger shout out to Ming, Chloe and Vivian who each made their own choices to help others, knowing they would need to provide their own time, energy and money to do so. I know I wasn’t thinking of others who might need support when I was 6, or 8, or even 16. Whether it’s Climate Change, or racism, or homelessness, young people are speaking out and acting in order to make a difference.

Do you have Food Security?

You might. While the cost of living is getting higher in BC’s Lower Mainland, you probably have a job and money to put towards regular meals in your home. But if you’re household is relying on social assistance as the main or only source of income, a BC Center for Disease Control study found that 75% of these households are food insecure, and female lone-parent households with children under the age of 18 face the highest rate of food insecurity. [1]

What is Food Insecurity?

When someone has limited or no access to adequate, culturally-appropriate and nutritional food, that person is experiencing food insecurity. Food insecurity contributes to poorer overall health – physical, mental, and emotional – and can negatively impact conditions like:

  • Diabetes
  • Hepatitis
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation

And someone experiencing food insecurity can also find it harder to concentrate or manage their emotions. [2] [3]

Food Insecurity at RainCity

Over half of the housing at RainCity doesn’t have a funded meal program, and almost all of those buildings are located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where healthy food is scarce, lineups for hot meals are long, and hours to available food service are limited.

While some of our programs benefit from local food donations – and thank you for those! – food donations alone do not guarantee ongoing meals.  

What can be done?

Our Board has launched a fundraising campaign ‘Healthy Food, Healthy Minds’ to address this! There are three ways to contribute:

  • Make a personal donation – Every donation makes a difference at RainCity. 100% of your donation goes directly to food security. A donation of $60 will provide a month of weekly meals for a mom and her two kids!
  • Become a Monthly Donor – A monthly donor makes a huge impact while having little impact on your own budget. If you and nine people you know all decided to donate $50 a month (a nice dinner out with a close friend), the total would cover weekly meals for the 24 women living at the Vivian for a year!
  • Have Your Business Sponsor a Meal Program! – By sponsoring one or more of these meal programs, your donation will mean people no longer needing to use all of their time and energy to secure food – they will be able to focus healthier brains and bodies on learning valuable life skills, participating in life in a different way, and making their life and the lives of those around them better. Email us for more info.

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have economic, physical and social access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”


United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

[1] Li, N, PhD, Dachner, N, MSc, Tarasuk, V, PhD, August 2016, Priority health equity indicators for British Columbia: Household food insecurity indicator report <http://www.bccdc.ca/pop-public-health/Documents/Household%20food%20insecurity%20in%20BC_full%20report.pdf>

[2] Hartline-Grafton, H, DrPH, RD, 2017, The Impact of Poverty, Food Insecurity, and Poor Nutrition on Health and Well-Being <https://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/hunger-health-impact-poverty-food-insecurity-health-well-being.pdf>

[3] Proof Food Insecurity Policy Research, 2016 The Impact of Food Insecurity on Health <https://proof.utoronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/health-impact-factsheet.pdf>

It takes a village to create homes

On Friday, March 29 we were part of the official opening event for the first of two modular housing projects in Chilliwack. It really does take a village to make changes and only by working together can we address crucial issues like addressing homelessness.

In the photograph above, from left to right are: Bill Briscall, Communications & Fund Development, RainCity Housing; Rod Simpson, Manager of Yale Modular, RainCity Housing; Laura Caron, Director of Clinical Services, RainCity Housing; City of Chilliwack Coucillor Harv Westeringh; Honorable Selina Robinson, Minister for Municipal Affairs & Housing; Catharine Hume, Co-Executive Director, RainCity Housing; City of Chilliwack Councillor Jeff Shields; City Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove; Phill Hall from the Sto:lo Nation; City of Chilliwack Councillor Sue Attrill; Robert Taylor, Assistant Manager of Yale Modular, RainCity Housing; Paula Potter, Indigenous Cultural Liaison, RainCity Housing; Allahyar Raza, BC Housing.

All levels and types of government, people throughout the community sharing tasks and knowledge, all working towards a collective goal – ending homelessness.

On the left is Phil Hall from the Sto:lo Nation welcoming us all, and on the right is Horse Woman (Paula Potter), RainCity’s Indigenous Cultural Liaison Worker that will work onsite in Chilliwack.

What will happen on this site in Chilliwack?

There is clearly a need for more affordable housing in Chilliwack. The modular housing will open in April 2019 and tenanting will begin towards the end of the month.

Residents will be provided meals and have access to life and employment skills training, and receive health and wellness support services to assist them in overcoming health and other challenges in order to maintaining their housing.

RainCity’s responsibilities include property management, operations management, and tenant selection in collaboration with BC Housing and community partners. Once people move in, staff provide 24/7 on site support to tenants.

An invitation to join the Community Advisory Committee

If you are a community member – either a business owner or residents – that lives and/or works near 45944 Yale Road, you may be interesting becoming a member of the Community Advisory Committee for this modular housing.  

The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) monitors progress and discusses issues and works towards constructive solutions to issues. It plays a key role in addressing concerns and helping to successfully integrate the building and its residents into the community.

The committee includes:

  • Members of the Community (5 to 7 residents and/or businesses)
  • RainCity Housing
  • City of Chilliwack
  • RCMP
  • Fraser Health
  • BC Housing

If you are interested in becoming a member of the CAC, read the Terms of Reference (to be confirmed by the CAC membership), download the Community Representative Application Form and email the filled out form to Rod Simpson, the Program Manager at rsimpson@raincityhousing.org

We look forward to working with all of our neighbours, partners and the 11 communities that make up the Sto:lo Nation.

A Peer’s Perspective in the Downtown Eastside

RainCity Housing is excited to announce we are partnering with Vancouver Coastal Health to embed peers in nine care teams in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The peers will be hired, managed and supported by us at RainCity and hired over the next few months.

Erika Weikle is a Peer Support Worker in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

RainCity defines Peers as people who are representative of the diverse population of people we serve. Our Peer Specialists offer mutual learning and support from a lens that reflects distinct experiences and voices often unheard in society. They may have lived experience of recovery from homelessness, substance use, mental illness, or bring other relevant lived experience that can benefit communities and marginalized groups accessing our services.

Read the CBC story for the perspective from Peer Support Worker Erika Weikle.