Sher Vancouver, a non-profit society for LGBTQ+ South Asians and their allies, has released “Destination YVR”, a survival guide for queer newcomers and students in Metro Vancouver.
The free survival guide, released last week, is meant to be a go-to resource for LGBTQ+ newcomers and students who just arrived or are planning to come to Metro Vancouver to help them adjust to life in the city.
“We have seen an influx of immigrants, from Asian people and new students coming here and joining our group for, I mean, everything. They just need information on everything,” says Alex Sangha, founder of Sher Vancouver.
The non-profit organization, based in B.C., has been around since 2008, with the aim to reduce “alienation and discrimination of people dealing with sexuality, gender and coming-out issues” through a variety of support services.
“Sher Vancouver, as a non-profit — and we’re on the verge of becoming a registered charity — we’re all about helping and supporting our community,” says Sangha.
The guide includes information on government identification, housing, food, clothing, employment, legal services, immigration and settlement, income support, and low-cost counselling, among many other services.
“One thing I’ve noticed is so many people have problems when they come here trying to find out ‘What is federal ID? What is provincial ID? Where do you get the ID and what is it called?’ and you know, all those kinds of stuff, they can’t figure it out,” he says.
The guide starts with the basics to get people up and going, Sangha says. There is a lot of student information and several pages of information on Metro Vancouver-based public post-secondary institutions.
“A lot of people contact us…all the time messaging us ‘I’m thinking of going to Vancouver, I don’t know which school to study at, which school do you recommend?’ And I hear so many sad stories of people taking courses from school that charge them so much money and they’re not accredited with immigration, or their programs aren’t recognized or is basically a useless diploma, so they can’t get any job,” Sangha says.
“No employer recognizes it. So these poor immigrants are victimized. And so this is why in this publication we only included public institutions.”
It’s even harder for queer people, Sangha says.
“So we focus on the queer population, but this guide could be used by anyone really, but we discreetly highlighted stuff for queer people in there.”
Some queer specific resources included in the survival guide include A Loving Spoonful, Fraser Valley Pride Festival, New West Pride, Out on Screen, Urban Native Youth Association, and Trans Alliance Society.
Sangha says they wanted to make it queer-focused because often in other guides and directories there is hardly any information for queer people.
“I just felt that there really isn’t too much information…for new immigrants, students in the country, that I’ve seen. So I thought to kind of fill the void.”
The guide is not only for the queer community but for friends, families, and allies too, he says.
“Anyone can benefit from the information in this guide.”