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This article is written entirely by a UBCO student as part of the school's Economics and the Media course. It has not been fact-checked by KelownaNow.
In 1977, students from the Okanagan Bible School offered coffee and conversations to people experiencing homelessness. When winter came about, they saw the obvious need to shelter them from the cold weather. In 1978, the students opened a center which grew into Kelowna’s Gospel Mission.
The center’s mission objective is to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, help the hurting, and provide assistance to all.
Although the Gospel Mission serves approximately 450 to 700 meals a day, the center serves much more than just meals.
The Gospel has four case workers, working hand in hand with individuals experiencing homelessness. The only requirement for clients to stay in this facility is for them to meet with a caseworker at least once every 21 days. If they refuse or miss meetings, the guest will have to leave on the 22nd day. As long as the clients meet with their caseworker, they may stay at the Gospel Mission for as long as they need.
The center has showers for anyone living on the streets and a mandatory shower protocol for registered guests staying the night. This includes free shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, razors, combs, earplugs, toothpaste, body wash, etc. Most of these are donated by local hotels.
Other than shelter, food (occasionally sushi), showers, and assistance from social workers, the Gospel Mission offers laundry services, banking services, mail service, kennels and food for pets, bike shelters, and a courtyard for a safe retreat.
Gospel Mission tries to connect individuals experiencing homelessness to as many services as they can. But, the Kelowna Gospel Mission doesn't do this all on its own. Community members across Kelowna help support this mission.
A local barber comes in three times a week. A local chiropractor comes every Wednesday. Preachers come to give devotions every afternoon before supper time. Farmers Markets donate all kinds of fresh produce. Outreach nurses come every Tuesday.
The City of Kelowna has also partnered with the Gospel Mission to provide courtyard sheds for people to store their personal belongings. “The City has been working closely with us to explore different avenues” says Terry, a 3-year volunteer at the Gospel Mission.
Malls donate recyclables such as cans to the Gospel Mission which are then sorted by people with disabilities. The Gospel Mission pays the sorters and all leftover proceeds go to the facility. Morningside Rotary Club has also donated multiple kitchen appliances.
The center has a free dental clinic upstairs with 5 chairs. “It’s a state of the art facility that will rival any clinic in town” exclaimed Terry.
Kelowna Gospel Mission website
There’s even a truck that travels daily to local businesses such as Costco, Safeway, Superstore, Save on Foods, and bakeries to collect donated bread, Metro Church provides clothes to guests, and the shoe bank on Ellis provides adequate footwear.
“Generosity in this community is outstanding.” says Terry. “It makes me proud to be from here”.
And of course, we cannot leave out the numerous community members who volunteer at Gospel Mission every day.
Kelowna Gospel Mission 2017 Annual Report.
But of course, there’s never too much help. Some people living on the streets are seeking help from different professionals. “I’ve lived with mental health issues pretty much all my life, and I have decided to finally get help now. But, for me, getting prescribed pills is not enough. I want to talk with someone, such as a psychologist, that could help me cope.” says Ricky Lee, homeless for 2 weeks now. “We are homeless, but we are not helpless”
For some, they just need a little bit of assistance to set off on their own. Mason, a guest at Kelowna Gospel Mission, is a musician playing with the Mission Boys band, and was seeking help to launch a website for the public to hear his music. Ricky Lee is another wonderful musician who just needs a little encouragement to spread his wings.
There is place for everyone at the Gospel Mission. If you want to give, whether you are a singer, social worker, comedian, psychologists, doctor, business person, or simply a person willing to converse, you can take part in this big, beautiful family.
The Women’s Shelter, Inn from the Cold, Cornerstone, and the Friendship Center are also all part of this wonderful community of giving back.
“By helping them, they’re helping me. In return, it's a great thing”. Terry says. “The willingness to make a difference will make a difference in my perspective.”
By working together and embodying teamwork, Kelowna’s Gospel Mission puts a dent in homelessness in Kelowna.