It’s hard to believe this past December the Gateway of Hope distributed a record number of Christmas hampers to singles, couples without children and seniors struggling to make ends meet within our community – over 550 to be exact. So far, 2015 has shown no sign of the need in our community slowing down. Rolling into summer Gateway of Hope has experienced significant increases in the number of people accessing some of its key services.
"We've seen a marked increase over the last 2 and 3 months in the number of people coming to our daily community meal” says Jim Coggles, Gateway of Hope Executive Director; “Rising from an average number of 100 meals served for lunch or dinner daily, now we’re serving as many as 150. In fact, one Sunday dinner this past month saw a record number of 180 meals served”, out of the warm and welcoming community kitchen the 4 local Rotary Clubs helped financially to create 5 years ago when Gateway of Hope was constructed. “We’re welcoming people of all ages and varying levels of low to no-income and need.”
Though we're seeing some new faces, we're also seeing many of our regular folks who might normally come 2 or 3 times a week, now coming more often because they’re having a tough time getting by. Our staff connected with one young couple who both recently lost their jobs and consequently their home. They're now living in a tent and coming to us for hot meals and showers – literally, just to survive. Our beds here are full – and we're doing whatever we can to help.
And the Gateway of Hope community meal isn't the only program experiencing high demand these days. The income tax preparation program offered by Gateway's Community and Family Services Office has processed a record number of tax returns this year for individuals and families who qualify for this needed service. The numbers have climbed from an average of 270 returns over the past few years to over 360 this year. And that number continues to grow.
"This is significant." Coggles points out; "Because most of the men and women coming to us for this service are not necessarily homeless, though a number of them are certainly at risk. They’re either living on a limited pension or income assistance or they are the working poor – living below the margin. And this group of vulnerable community members seems to be growing from what we are experiencing. The reality is, poverty comes with many faces; the visibly homeless person on the street; the senior living on a greatly restricted income; the individual with a physical or mental health condition on income assistance; or the single mom trying to care for her family on minimum wage. There are people all around us who are struggling just to survive."
So what can the community do to help out?
"Come along side us.” Coggles invites. “And help us in the fight. Donate! Volunteer! Tell someone else who can help us as well. Many of the critical services Gateway of Hope provides rely entirely upon community funding. So we need your financial support to help us help others; not just at Christmas but all through the year. And volunteers help us in a variety of ways too – accounting for almost 3/4 of our workforce. So give us a call at 604-514-7375 if you’ve got some time to help out. We would love to hear from you. The Salvation Army Gateway of Hope is a part of this community. We believe in giving dignity and hope; helping those less fortunate; not just to get by in the moment, but to move forward and out of poverty for good. That’s our goal. To be a part of the solution to help end poverty and homelessness in people lives.”