17 Oct 2023  /  2 minute read

Pigeon Park Savings: A credit union serving the unique needs of Vancouver Downtown Eastside community members

One of the foundational principles of credit unions is that they exist for their community. That means they’re acutely aware of the economics, circumstances, and needs of their community and offer services in a manner that reflects all those factors.

While some credit unions serve large and diverse populations, others are deeply embedded in small and distinct communities of people. The latter is where Pigeon Park Saving fits —a great example of how a credit union exists for and serves the needs of its members profoundly and indispensably.

Central 1 provides support to Pigeon Park Savings through a member relationship with another large B.C. credit union. As we look forward to International Credit Union Day on October 19, we wanted to share the story behind this special and important credit union!

Who is Pigeon Park Savings

PHS Community Services Society provides a wealth of services for arguably the most vulnerable community of people in Canada — Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. From housing to healthcare and harm reduction, PHS “develops and delivers innovative programming for people otherwise excluded from services.”

Providing basic financial services through Pigeon Park Savings is one of those innovative programs. Through a partnership with Vancity Credit Union, PHS opened Pigeon Park Savings in 2004 to help increase access to financial services for Downtown Eastside community members who otherwise would likely not be able to open a bank account anywhere else.

Providing customized services for a unique community

Downtown Eastside community members (and many other houseless people across the country) are often very challenged by many of the ways the financial system is set up and what it requires in order to have a banking relationship. Here are a couple examples of the challenges these community members face when it comes to setting up and maintaining a bank account:

  • It’s likely that they’re not able to provide two pieces of ID that are required by most (if not all) financial institutions.
  • They typically do not have a home address, which is also usually a requirement to create a bank account.

Pigeon Park team members work with individual community members to help them navigate these (and many other) challenges and set them up with a bank account. On top of navigating financial services, Pigeon Park Savings staff are PHS mental health workers who are trained as financial service representatives. While they help community members navigate their financial needs, they’re also able to provide other critical social services and support.

More than financial services

Having a bank account and access to money seems simple, but it’s enormous for these community members. A bank account provides a safe place they can keep their money instead of carrying all of it with them physically while also providing a positive alternative to predatory cheque cashing services.

Credit unions often have deep relationships with their community members and end up being more than just a bank for them. Pigeon Park Savings is an incredibly moving example of what this truly looks like in practice.

Watch this video to learn more about Pigeon Park Savings.