Banking on the Downtown Eastside.

Pigeon Park Savings, a small branch in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, provides access to basic financial services to people who are often excluded from conventional banking.

Pigeon Park Savings is more than a credit union branch. “For a lot of people, Pigeon Park is the last option in banking,” says financial services representative and mental health worker Jill Henderson.

A collaboration between Vancity and PHS Community Services Society, the community branch provides access to basic financial services, like a bank account or cheque cashing, to nearly 5,000 members living on low income in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. With few options beyond cheque-cashing companies, many have nowhere else to go.

“To take away our services would mean we would leave people without money,” says branch manager and mental health worker Sharon Buchanan.

With few options beyond cheque-cashing companies, many have nowhere else to go.

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. “During COVID 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.

Pigeon Park services allow members to control their finances, receive advice, and take steps to become financially stable. Its low barrier strategy often starts with essential supports such as securing identification for members.

Pigeon Park acts as “a bit of a resource centre,” says Buchanan. The team, employed by PHS, are financial aid workers trained in mental health and addiction. They are the most important factor in Pigeon Park’s success. They provide banking services in a respectful and supportive way, which enables them to provide financial consultation and education, sometimes offering referrals to other services in the area. Because the staff take the time to listen and understand their needs, members feel comfortable when they’re banking at Pigeon Park.

Pigeon Park Savings – YouTube

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