Single mothers are one of the fastest growing group experiencing homelessness and poverty in Canada. In BC, it has been reported that 169,240 children are living below the poverty line. According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, 21% of single mothers are raising their children in poverty, and Aboriginal women are 36% more likely to be in poverty than any other group.
Dedicated to combatting homelessness amongst this group, the Aboriginal Mothers Centre Society (AMCS) is an organization that is directly helping Aboriginal mothers and children by providing them with safe, stable housing, resources to rebuild their life, and the skills they need to retain or regain custody of their children.
We recently announced the recipients to our annual RLCF Legacy Grant, with this year’s focus on providing support to organizations that are helping at risk women and children living in poverty in Vancouver. The Aboriginal Mother Centre Society has been a vital organization to many women and children living in poverty in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. AMCS and RLCF share the same vision that everyone deserves a chance in life, no matter what their circumstances are.
Addressing a need in the community
Opening their doors in 2002, the AMSC mission is to move mothers and children off the streets and provide all the support, tools and resources a mother needs to rebuild her health, self-esteem, and skills to regain and retain her child.
Starting as a small organization of only 5 staff, the AMCS has grown over the years to have over 30 employees who work tirelessly to address the problem of homelessness of Aboriginal mothers and children in the Vancouver community. Located at 2019 Dundas Street in Downtown Vancouver, the AMCS underwent a massive renovation and organizational restructuring in 2010, and now provides 16 suites of transformational housing for mothers and their children under the age of 9 who are at risk of homelessness or child welfare intervention, and daycare facilities and programs.
The renovation and funding has allowed the centre to provide more comprehensive and long-term services. The 28,000 square foot facility now provides a variety of services/programs including housing for at risk Aboriginal mothers and their children, licensed daycare for children aged 3-5, family wellness workshops, homeless outreach programs and a community kitchen.
With the “Under One Roof” philosophy, the AMCS delivers on-site programming for both mothers-in-residence as well as the local Aboriginal community with a traditional indigenous knowledge-centred approach. Their family wellness program focuses on healthy living, parenting skills and traditional knowledge (including medicine wheel teachings, moccasin making, songs and Elders teachings).
The challenges of a growing organization
As a growing organization going from 5 employees to now over 30, the reopening of the AMCS proved to be a big responsibility for the organization, with several different departments launching at once. It was a challenge that has been overcome over the years through relationships, private funders, the vision and commitment of its board members that have been there since day one, and the surrounding community.
Despite the recent growth, there are still gaps within the organization, including the need for a full-time elder advisor and clinical counseling services for the mothers. With the help of RLCF’s legacy grant, together we are addressing some of these gaps – starting off with bringing an elder on board to provide cultural support to the clients as well as the staff.
Some successes and visions for the future
A staggering 50% of children in the foster care system are Aboriginal. One of the focuses of AMCS is on keeping children in the care of their own parent. AMCS works together with the Aboriginal children and family services when moms are at risk of interventions and losing their children. They build a plan, address the risks, and work together to reunite the mother with her child. Over the years, the program has helped mothers secure long-term housing, gain custody of their children again and go back to school, and secure meaningful employment.
Looking forward, AMCS is committed to growing and providing more services to Aboriginal mothers and children over the next couple of years.
How you can you get involved with AMCS?
There are several opportunities to volunteer, from being part of the board of directors to administrative volunteers, or helping with the transformational housing program or daycare program. If you have a special skill or want to facilitate a workshop, AMCS’s family wellness program allows for individuals to come in and provide expertise to their residents; it can be cultural, health and wellness or any practical skills you want to share. For AMCS’s current career opportunities, click here.
How you can help AMCS’s vision of keeping at risk mother & children off the streets?
You can volunteer with the AMCS or you can donate funds. Click here for more information on how you can become a donor.
The RLCF is excited to be partnering with the Aboriginal’s Mother Centre and helping in their vision to get at risk mothers and children off the streets.
If you have questions, as us in the comments below or reach out to us on social media:
LinkedIn: Robert L. Conconi Foundation