What is the Gathering Place?
The Gathering Place at 609 Helmcken Street is drop-in centre for Downtown East Side residents offering a place to get a meal, shower, use the health clinic or participate in activities. It opened in 1995 as part of the New Continental housing project. It is operated by the City of Vancouver with community partners, the Vancouver School Board and Province of BC. The Gathering Place operates 7 days a week from 10am to 8pm and is open all statutory holidays.
Who Does It Serve?
The Gathering Place primarily serves vulnerable populations, including people on lower income, people with disabilities, seniors, people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, the LGBTQ community, youth, and people who are homeless. It’s a busy place with over 4,000 patrons taking out a membership each year.
Several hundred people visit the Gathering Place daily. It serves about 400 low-cost meals daily and hosts a health centre, reading room and a variety of community programs including arts and fitness programs. The Vancouver School Board operates the adult education centre, one of 6 centres in Vancouver, providing high school completion with courses in all grades. Donated clothing is available along with a wardrobe that members can borrow for important occasions such as a job interview.
The Gathering Place prides itself on the commitment of its volunteers, many of whom first got involved as visitors: “Over 100 volunteers work two to four-hour shifts in the kitchen, health centre, library, cafeteria, and other locations to provide Gathering Place services. Without their hard work and support, the centre would not be able to operate.” In return for their time volunteers receive meal tickets worth $1.25 per hour which are redeemable in the cafeteria. During the Olympics the Gathering Place had members out on the street to offer advice and directions to visitors. Others participated in a training program to learn how to provide walking tours of the area.
PiF 2016: Gathering Place Community Centre from Cineworks Vancouver on Vimeo.
- City of Vancouver. “Gathering Place Community Centre.”
- Gordon McIntyre. “Jean Swanson: Homelessness a problem that just keeps growing and growing.” Vancouver Sun. April 5, 2017.