In 2022, the Upper Room Mission set out to care for and improve the lives of the people in Vernon who live isolated, unsheltered and in poverty. Because of your support for our most vulnerable we have been able to accomplish this and more in 2022.
2022 was a recovery year after two difficult years of the COVID pandemic in our community. Due to the 2020 pandemic limitations, and staff and volunteer shortages, we could only be open four days a week. After re-establishing services to five days a week in 2021, there was still a need for access to food on the weekends. At the beginning of 2022, we extended our service offering to seven days a week to ensure greater access to food was available to those in need.
Besides food, guests to the Upper Room Mission can access washrooms, clothing, laundry and connections to community resources. It’s a place to get away from the stresses of living on the streets, in poverty or in isolation from the community.
In February, we added to our service offering and launched our new shower program. Access to showers for our guests has been difficult in our community. Through our community’s generous support, we converted an existing staff bathroom into a shower. Our shower program can be accessed five days a week; on average, six to eight people are served each day with a shower.
In March, we welcomed Pastor Brent Henderson to our team to lead our care ministry at the Mission. His work involves building relationships with our guests, sharing the Gospel and supporting our staff through pastoral care. He is also building a prayer team committed to praying for our guests, staff and the Mission.
In June, we started the process of beautifying the Mission’s and the Boutique’s buildings by giving them a new coat of paint and refreshing their awnings. Looking forward to 2023, we are excited to see our bottle depot enclosed with a new garage door and our fencing repaired.
During 2022 we hosted several community dinners, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, to which we invited the community to come and celebrate with us. These events have been traditionally part of the Upper Room Mission each year, and we were happy to bring them back after a brief Covid delay in these services.
In 2022, many volunteers returned to the Mission after a difficult Covid season. Volunteers are the backbone of our organization, and we would not be able to provide all the services we offer without them. In the Spring and Fall, we hosted a volunteer appreciation lunch to celebrate all the work our volunteers do for us. We currently have 52 volunteers who help us out on a regular basis, and they contributed 13,460 hours of support to us. This constitutes a minimum of $228,820 in contributed economic value. What a blessing!
In 2022, we welcomed our first guest care aid. When you come to the Mission, you will most likely interact with Heather first. She not only takes care of people by providing access to our shower and laundry services but also helps our people with other hygiene needs and minor wounds. This might be a bandage, a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shavers, female products, underwear and socks. All these little things we take for granted are a huge blessing to people living unsheltered lives.
Heat domes. Atmospheric rivers. Polar vortexes. Weather is undoubtedly changing and adds a layer of hardship for unsheltered people. This year, our day shelter acted as a cooling station during the summer and a source of cold-weather gear and much-needed warmth in the winter. In December, through the help of the North Okanagan Community Foundation, we were able to have extended hours to keep people warm during extreme cold weather events. This support was extended to January and February of 2023.
November and December were very difficult months for our homeless friends as the cold weather came early and stuck around. The sad part is that lives were lost during this time, and it took a toll on our community and staff. These tragedies should not have happened in 2022, but due to a lack of housing, addiction and mental health support, death among our friends on the street is becoming a regular occurrence.
Throughout the year, we hosted a series of memorials in partnership with Street Church, remembering those who lost their lives within our community. These services honour them to be recognized and give room for the grief and hurt within our community.
We look forward to the 2023 year. As we continue our work of loving those who come through our doors. We will be working on plans to further improve the lives of the poor, unsheltered and isolated in our community. These plans would include mental health support and addiction recovery services and provide work opportunities within our social enterprise structure and community. We are also working towards implementing a mat program next winter to bring our guests in from the cold. We seek to work closely with community partners to make these things happen because we won’t be able to reach these goals on our own.
Lastly, thank YOU for your continued support of the Upper Room Mission. We have been around for 42 years because of your generosity and blessings to our organization and the people we serve. We look forward to growing together to positively impact our community’s poor, unsheltered and marginalized.