Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre steps up to serve elders during pandemic

From Monday to Friday, the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre delivers hot lunches to elders throughout the city and has been doing so since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“For them to be able to have communication outside and expect someone to come visit them where some of them are just isolated in their own homes by themselves it gives them that little incentive to ‘oh wow we get to see you just for a few minutes,’” says Melanie Cloutier, the elders coordinator at the centre.

“You see the happy faces. It makes me feel good, that they feel good and providing them with a nutritional lunch every day.”

The friendship centre also offers numerous other programs and services that are needed.

“Where other agencies have scaled back their programming, the friendship centre has expanded with our COVID funding with the federal government,” says James Hunter – Reaching Home Community Housing Navigator. “We are able to reach those populations on the Downtown Eastside, East Vancouver, families and singles.”

Hunter says this also includes laptops so the community can stay in touch virtually and tap into online programs and services.

“Funders from my program “reaching home” have been really awesome at Service Canada, so we were able to do a lot of stuff like helping people financially with rental subsidies, arrears, keeping people housed and getting people housed,” he says.

The friendship centre is currently running two shelters for people needing a place to stay – including their former gym which is now a shelter which fits 20 clients.

The unique part about that shelter is that the clients are allowed to stay during the day and are provided with meals and snacks.

“We have shower facilities downstairs for all the guests and we also have laundry facilities downstairs,” says Brian Francis who manages both shelters.

According to Susan Tatoosh, executive director the friendship centre, maintaining cultural teachings is also important.

“Today we had our elder come in and talk about the meaning of blanketing it’s really important to ensure that even though we don’t have our cultural nights even though we don’t have our community events it’s important that we maintain the learning,” she tells APTN News. 

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