Stephen Kastlison, an outreach worker for the Fraser Valley Mobile Mission, in front of the rescue van. Image courtesy of Jeremy Hunka.

Church groups in Abbotsford distribute supplies to homeless during cold snap

Central Heights Church, Union Gospel Mission provide ‘life-saving’ supplies

In the midst of this January cold-snap, there are a number of church organizations doing their part to warm up people living on the streets in Abbotsford.

Temperatures dipped to a low of -11 C on Tuesday, and are expected to remain several degrees below zero for the remainder of the week.

Central Heights Church and the Union Gospel Mission are two religious institutions making an effort to help the homeless during the current freezing temperatures.

“It’s not a matter of personal aggrandizement of anyone,” said Win Wachsmann, one of the organizers of the Central Heights Church program. “This is something that one church is doing and we would encourage other churches to do the same.”

Central Heights Church has created a cold-weather-care program to collect socks, clothes and other gear from their church community and distribute it to the 5 and 2 Ministries and the Cyrus Centre to pass along to adults and youth who are homeless.

Wachsmann said there is no particular goal or number they are trying to reach, but they are trying to help as many people as they can.

“We had some success before Christmas and we’re continuing now during the ongoing cold weather,” he said. “We’ve got so many people who are homeless and disadvantaged.

“If your socks get wet, there is no place to dry them, so you have to find new ones.”

Wachsmann wants all the other churches and people in the community to participate if they can. He said everyone is welcome to drop off their donations to the Central Heights Church on McCallum Road.

The Union Gospel Mission out of East Vancouver has sent their Mobile Mission rescue van, loaded with survival gear, to the Fraser Valley to distribute life-saving supplies in the midst of the extreme temperatures.

Sleeping bags, blankets, gloves, jackets, heat-reflective blankets and tarps, socks, winter boots, and hot food and drinks are all things that have been handed out, said Jeremy Hunka, a former journalist turned homeless advocate.

“It’s so cold out here right now. The wind just slices right through you,” Hunka said. “This is the worst of the worst, this type of cold weather with the rain and the wind. This is life-threatening. People’s lives are on the line and I think we need to do better in Abbotsford, Mission and across Metro Vancouver.”

The Mobile Mission rescue van has been in operation since May 2019 and now comes to the valley four or five times a week. Each trip they connect with around 20 homeless people in Abbotsford and Mission.

Hunka said the mobile van goes to different locations where the need is greatest to “try and augment and connect to other services that already exist and then fill the gaps.”

“There isn’t really this type of rescue vehicle that goes out and does quite the same thing.”

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