Unique educational escape room about homelessness could head to Seattle, San Francisco

October 13, 2017

Sephanie Ip, Vancouver Sun, October 17, 2017 

The concept for a Vancouver-designed escape room meant to educate the public about homelessness could soon make its way to Seattle, San Francisco and beyond after the project was met with an overwhelming response.

Encounter is an immersive, educational, escape-room experience designed and constructed by Union Gospel Mission and several formerly homeless clients to explain how difficult it can be to leave homelessness. Each puzzle in the experience highlights a different set of challenges faced by those living on the streets.

Hosted during Homelessness Action Week from Oct. 7-14 at Richmond’s Exit Canada. The project was booked to capacity before opening and then extended for two days before being booked up again.

“We never imagined that it would go this far or that it would impact this many people,” said UGM spokesman Jeremy Hunka of the overwhelming public response. “I think this shows that there’s a hunger to understand why homelessness is so prevalent and there’s a real desire to tackle things in new ways.

“We’re talking about a decades-old problem, so we need new and innovative techniques, advocacy and solutions to those problems.”

The escape room is now closed to the public, but organizers hope to fit in some local school groups and organizations from their waiting list before the project must close at week’s end.

Hunka said that as a result of the coverage a homeless shelter in Seattle and a not-for-profit games charity in San Francisco have both reached out to UGM about possibly bringing the project’s concept to those cities.

“Things have been so crazy in the midst of the campaign that we haven’t had a chance to talk with them formally yet, but we’ve set up discussions for the next couple weeks and we’ll talk about everything — from bringing something really similar to their region or also providing expertise and consultation.”

During the project’s run, nearly 450 people went through the escape room, including Social Development and Poverty Reduction Minister Shane Simpson and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

“I found it extraordinarily difficult experiencing the barriers and trying to puzzle your way through what people who are homeless go through,” said Robertson. “It’s hard to get a sense of that when you’re not homeless.

“I thought this was an amazing way to encounter that in a real way that gives us a lot more compassion for what people are going through and hopefully inspires more people to help solve homelessness once and for all.”

Hunka said the formerly homeless people who helped design and construct the room were also touched by the “questions people asked” and by the “genuine interest” from people completing the escape-room experience.

“I think that there’s this feeling that some of our formerly homeless guests have that they were kind of cast aside or overlooked by society, that they’re ignored and this showed that there are people who have interest and want to learn from their experiences,” said Hunka. “That was a really empowering thing for them to understand, that they have expertise to give that can help guide our region and even some of our politicians.”



Sorry, no events are scheduled. Check back soon.