NSIIP News

Discount passes changed to welcome refugees

April 19, 2016

24 Hours | Changes in the Vancouver Park Board’s discount pass policy will allow homeless residents, refugees and trans people easier access to free swimming, skating and discounted lessons.

Changes in the Vancouver Park Board’s discount pass policy will allow homeless residents, refugees and trans people easier access to free swimming, skating and discounted lessons.

The Leisure Access Pass is intended for low-income people and generally offers 50% off lessons, fitness centres, in addition to some free services at community centres and facilities.

Changes approved on Monday mean that non-citizen refugees, homeless who don’t have government ID, and those whose gender is different from their identification cards, can now be more easily accepted into the discount pass.

Paul Czene, recreation services co-ordinator at the Park Board, said in the past homeless residents would simply be asked to get a piece of government ID, or no discount pass would be offered.

“In the past … an agency or sponsor would complete the form for a refugee or immigrant’s family. They would get sent to the Park Board, processed, sent back to the agency and then the family would go to the community centre to get their pass,” Czene said.

The changes mean refugees can now go to partner agencies, such as the Vancouver School Board, the provincial government, settlement services, the health authority and other agencies to have the form filled, then the family can take the completed forms directly to the community centre for immediate processing.

Homeless and trans individuals don’t have to bring government ID any more. They could similarly get a referral from a service provider — even a cell phone bill, if that’s all the proof of residency they have — and be accepted into the program.

The program remains only available to those who qualify for federal or provincial income or social assistance.

Since January, the access pass program has processed 81 refugee applicants, out of a total of 3,875 passes processed.

The program currently has about 15,800 members.

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