Homelessness Escape Room

Former Homeless Man Helps Build Escape Room to Share Story,

Inspire Action, Enhance Understanding

A ground-breaking Escape Room is set to be unveiled in Metro Vancouver, allowing the public to encounter homelessness in a radical new way. The room, called Encounter, was partly conceived, designed, constructed, and engineered by formerly homeless Canadians who want the public to understand homelessness on a new level. It comes complete with gadgets, puzzles and clues meant to educate the public and inspire change.

“Homelessness was like a maze,” says Terry Lawrence, who was homeless for two years and confronted a labyrinth of endless challenges along his road to housing. “I helped build ‘Encounter’ to educate the public on just how complicated homelessness really is and help others.”

“We don’t know of anything quite like this ever before,” says UGM’s Jeremy Hunka. “Because many of our formerly homeless guests tell us they felt ‘trapped’ on the streets and speak of how difficult it was to ‘escape’ homelessness, they believe this is an appropriate way of communicating reality and building empathy.”

“Encounter: Interactively Understanding Homelessness and its Barriers” illuminates obstacles that prevent people like Terry from accessing housing – barriers often invisible to the rest of society. It was professionally designed through a partnership between Union Gospel Mission and EXIT, Canada’s largest Escape Room chain.

“My eyes were opened to the many struggles homeless people go through,” says Canadian Olympic Medalist Stephanie Labbé, one of the first to see Encounter. “I really think this experience will help change our perception.”

“Reality really hit home for me,” says North Vancouver Olympic Medalist Georgia Simmerling, who also participated.

Encounter is not a game; it is an immersive learning experience that will challenge perceptions and incite action to ‘counter’ homelessness. It will be open to the public, free of charge, during Metro Vancouver’s Homelessness Action Week. Anyone can sign up at ugm.ca/encounter.

“EXIT Canada has been a proud sponsor for many companies over many years all towards one goal of making a difference,” says EXIT owner Justin Tang. “The opportunity to collaborate with Union Gospel Mission is no exception as this unique project hits a personal chapter in my life, one of perseverance and resilience. The concept of an escape room as a platform to bring awareness to homelessness is a bold new way that I hope will encourage not only more listeners but spark an effective movement toward change.”

Public participants will also have the chance to meet formerly homeless individuals – who are paid for their time – to ask questions and learn from their experiences.

“This is a way for me to give back with the skills I have,” says Terry Lawrence, who helped engineer the electrical wiring and clues within the escape room. “I hope it breaks stigma and helps others.”


Date: Thursday, October 5, 2017
Time: 10:00 – 10:30am
Where: Exit Canada; 9111 Beckwith Rd, Richmond


Encounter is only made possible through sponsors like EXIT, Can-Design, Two Wheel Gear, and Fabricana.


Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing lives of men, women, youth, and children for 75 years. Through its seven locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides emergency shelter, meals, career development counselling, education, safe housing, addiction recovery and much more to those struggling with poverty, homelessness and addiction. The heart of the mission is to demonstrate God’s transforming love, ease the burden of the most vulnerable, rebuild lives and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside. To learn more, visit www.ugm.ca.

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