The Union Gospel Mission served early Easter dinners of ham, scalloped potatoes and frozen vegetables to an estimated 3,000 people on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside Saturday. 

The holiday meal is an annual tradition for the shelter, but this year it says has been especially difficult for those living in the neighbourhood, which is one of the poorest in Canada.

"Our shelter has been busier than it's ever been. January was a record breaking month. February was record breaking month," said UGM spokesman Jeremy Hunka. 

"It's concerning when people say, 'I have nowhere to go, can you help me?'" 

A Carnegie Action Project study this week found that since 2008 many DTES landlords have raised rents by more than $100. But, over the same time period welfare rates have remained at just $610 per month. 

Easter Dinner at UGM

200 volunteers served Easter Dinner at the Union Gospel Mission on Vancouver, B.C.'s Downtown Eastside yesterday. (CBC)

"People can't maintain when there' no control on the housing market, no control on finances on what people have to pay out of pocket to have an existence," said DTES resident Jerry Mackavick.

More than 200 volunteers turned out yesterday to help serve the meal. 

"It makes me feel like I'm contributing to the meaning of Easter rather than just eating chocolate at home," said volunteer Evangeline Theissen. 

with files from Deborah Goble