Busy Centre Has Bigger Plans 

Covid emergency centre in VAFCS gymnasium. Left to right: Brian, shelter manager, Kaila, program administrator, and David, Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AHMA)

The Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society (VAFCS) located at 1607 East Hastings St. has provided essential services to the urban aboriginal community for over 50years. It is one of the main hubs for families, youth, adults and elders to access support for housing, employment, life skills and recreational programs.

“VAFCS strives to provide wrap-around services to allcommunity members,” says Kaila Wong, program administrator at VAFCS. “While we are open to everyone, we prioritize
Indigenous community members and their needs. We emphasize the philosophies and values of Aboriginal traditions to help our clients maintain their cultural ties.”

Housing and food support have been two of the priorities for the centre during COVID: The seven-person Urban Aboriginal Navigation Team (UANT) provides housing and support services for Indigenous people who are at risk of homelessness or are already experiencing it. UANT assists with emergency rent subsidies, food access, housing applications and tenant landlord relations.


VAFCS also offers an Employment, Life Skills and Training program that focuses on building resumes and cover letters, education and training certificates as well as career planning. “It’s an eight-week program with three cohorts per year and anyone is welcome to apply,” adds Kaila.

Their “Elder Wisdom Program” delivers meals on wheels to up to 50 seniors and, as part of the centre’s recreation program, 100 meal prep kits are provided to families with children each month. “We are extremely fortunate to have many valuable volunteers contributing to our programs and special events. However, we are always looking for more volunteers and donations to assist with the successful delivery of our services, especially food preparation,” says Kaila.

The number of programs the centre offers to the public is steadily growing. VAFCS currently runs 35 different programs and is looking to hire new staff this year. “Meeting the needs of our current and prospective clients has been challenging,” admits Kaila.

“Cultural services that people can access have been limited during the pandemic. While the number of people we are serving has steadily increased, our funding remains temporary. We receive most of our financial contributions from federal, provincial and municipal sources but having a steady and predictable source of revenue would be ideal. VAFCS spends $20,000 a month on food security programs.”

There is no shortage of plans for the centre’s immediate future: Aboriginal Head start, a daycare program for indigenous
children, will begin this year and VAFCS is planning to create up to 220 more housing units in the next five years. More social housing units will be made available on the 1000 block of East Hastings and there will be a redevelopment at the centre itself as well. “My professional background is in development and construction so this is where I get really passionate about my work,” says Kaila, with a beaming face.

“Our dream is to build a one-service level shelter with wraparound services that provides holistic services to all of our community members.”