As part of our series on poverty and homelessness we asked people to consider sharing a story about their experiences. Sharing these stories serves as a reminder that poverty and homelessness are not a choice. It’s important for us to end the stigma and stereotypes that are too often associated with these issues. Each of us has followed a different path from the past to the present. Yet some of our paths have been rockier than others.
This week we are pleased to offer the seventh of these stories. We are grateful to the Victoria Cool Aid Society for providing it to us. Working in partnership with others to develop community-based solutions, Cool Aid provides emergency shelter, supportive housing, integrated health care and other support services to those in need.
Helping over 9,000 people in the Capital Region every year, the Cool Aid Society is one of the leading service providers for people who are homeless and is the largest provider of supportive housing outside of the Lower Mainland, for people who have been homeless.
Last year alone, over 1,700 individuals stayed in Cool Aid shelters and over 4,000 patients received primary health care at the Cool Aid Community Health Centre. Additionally, Cool Aid currently operates 374 apartments for people who have been homeless and this year they will begin construction of Cottage Grove Apartments in Saanich, for seniors who are currently homeless.
Cool Aid’s Next Steps Transitional Shelter, provides an opportunity for 15 emergency shelter clients to access the resources and services they need to get their lives back on track. Such services include housing, employment, financial, life skills and mentorship, as well as physical and mental health services. ‘J’ is one of those clients:
“I have spent seven years of my life on the streets of Victoria, mostly under a bridge. Life was hard, life was cold. I had tried to make the transition from streets to housing before. Unfortunately, I never had the resources to stay in housing nor the skills for the job to pay my bills.
At the beginning of this last attempt to get off the streets I heard about this place called Next Steps run by the Cool Aid Society. What they had to offer was exactly what would help me do the transition properly. I will be attending school while staying at Next Steps. I will be gaining the skill set to get a job that will pay the bills and that I will thoroughly enjoy.
The impact of all of this will be far reaching and impact my life in such a tremendous way. Next Steps is offering a chance to produce positive, outstanding people who used to think they had no chance. Next Steps has a lot to offer me and any person wanting to make the best change one can make. From under a bridge to under a roof.”
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