Toques, turkey, handed out at UGM's annual Christmas meal

The Union Gospel Mission's doors opened at 10:30 a.m. PT Saturday for its annual Christmas dinner, but this year guests will be getting more than a hot meal.

Union Gospel Mission says the holidays can be a lonely time for people on the Downtown Eastside

Aspiring pastry chef Maggie Zhang serves up pumpkin pie desserts for guests at UGM's Thanksgiving dinner earlier this year. (Lien Yeung/CBC)

The doors of Vancouver's Union Gospel Mission opened at 10:30 PT Saturday morning for its annual Christmas dinner, but this year guests will be getting more than a hot meal. 

"In addition to warming them up with this holiday meal, we are also handing out toques, handing out gloves and in addition we've been handing out our survival gear," said UGM spokesman Jeremy Hunka.

Hunka says the survival gear includes heat-reflective blankets, heat-reflective tarps, sleeping bags, thermal underwear and water proof jackets and boots.

"If they're homeless, this is probably the place they're going to be."

The dinner has been a tradition for decades on the Downtown Eastside. This year there will be enough food for more than 3,000 people.

For some, it will be the only holiday get-together they attend this year.

Hunka says the holidays can be a lonely time for many on the Downtown Eastside. 

"They're going to be reminded people care for them," he said. 

UGM provides the dinner early in the season so it doesn't over lap with other services being provided over the holidays, he added. 

"We focus on Christmas hampers later in December, but we really want to get as many people into UGM as possible," Hunka said.