Pigeon Park Savings is more than a credit union. “For a lot of people, Pigeon Park is the last option in banking,” says Jill Henderson, financial services representative and mental health worker.
The community branch is a collaboration between Vancity and PHS Community Services Society. It provides access to basic financial services, like a bank account and cheque cashing, to nearly 5,000 members living on low income in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. With few options in the neighbourhood beyond cheque-cashing companies charging exorbitant fees, many have nowhere else to go.
The branch team, employed by PHS, are financial aid workers trained in mental health and addiction. They provide a welcoming atmosphere where all members are treated with respect. Pigeon Park Savings allow its members to control their finances, receive trusted advice, and take steps to become financially stable—without relying on predatory lenders.
“To take away our services would mean we would leave people without money,” says Sharon Buchanan, branch manager and mental health worker.
That’s why, when many other financial institutions in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside closed their doors at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pigeon Park stayed open.
“They’ve been there for the neighbourhood and they’ve been there for me,” says Marilyn Young, a Pigeon Park member since the branch opened in 2004.
The staff of Pigeon Park Savings worked closely to coordinate with peer workers, community partners, officials at the City of Vancouver, and the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction (MSDPR) to ensure the safe distribution of social assistance cheques.
Everyone should have access to essential financial services such as a basic bank account, cheque cashing and trusted advice. Without easy and affordable access to these services, many people experience financial hardship and limited opportunities.
Pigeon Park Savings is a concrete example of what’s possible when finance puts people before profit. Vancity is a community credit union; it means we use our business and our community partnerships to solve real-life problems for members and their communities.
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