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Lu’ma Native Housing Society: Helping community members purchase essentials when cash, credit, and debit are not options

Lu'ma Native Housing Society distributed prepaid cards to community member to help them purchase essential items.

From the first days of the pandemic, Lu’ma Native Housing Society has been finding new and creative ways to continue delivering essential housing, food and cultural services to Vancouver’s Indigenous community members.

One of its most urgent tasks was figuring out how to get money into the hands of community members to help them pay for basic necessities. To quickly and effectively achieve this, Lu’ma turned to Vancity and Vancity Community Investment Bank’s (VCIB) COVID Assistance Prepaid Visa® Gift Card Program which helps organizations provide emergency relief funds to clients, community members, and employees.

“Community members were calling us who were being forced to choose between food, personal safety equipment, utilities, and housing,” said Lu’ma’s Director of Housing Operations, Kevin Eaton, who went on to explain that loss of employment and added expenses brought on by physical distancing have had severe financial impacts on an already marginalized community.

Kevin Eaton explains how prepaid cards have become essential at a time when cash isn't an option, and many people don't have access to credit or debit cards.

“Most businesses are not accepting cash at this time, and many of our community members don’t have credit or debit cards,” he added. “Prepaid cards have become an essential way to help individuals address their most urgent needs, whether that’s paying for food or cleaning supplies, or the added costs of safe transportation.”

In addition to the prepaid cards, Lu’ma has found other ways to adapt their services, offering curbside food delivery and safe, clean spaces for homeless people to self-isolate, rental support for those living in the organization’s affordable housing facilities, and perhaps most significantly, a vital connection to culture and to one another through Talking Circles led by elders on Zoom.

“As Indigenous Peoples, it is within our teachings and DNA to care, support, and provide for each other as we would of in our original community structures,” said Eaton. “Lu’ma will continue to do all it can to ensure it is providing its people with essentials such as food, shelter, culture, and ongoing support.”

To learn more about VCIB’s COVID Assistance Prepaid Visa Gift Card Program, contact James at JDawe@vcib.ca.  Through the program, fees will be lowered for eligible organizations that can demonstrate how the cards will be used to provide emergency relief to their communities.

*Visa Int./Vancity Community Investment Bank, Licensed User.

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