A Brief History of Cool Aid

40 Years of Vital Community Services

Active ImageThe Victoria Cool Aid Society traces its origins to June 10th, 1968, when “Cool Aid” was officially founded to provide emergency shelter for transient youth travelling the country. On August 18th, 1970, the “Cool Aid Free Medical Clinic ” opened its doors. On July 29th, 1971, the “Cool Aid Youth Hostel” opened. On May 3rd, 1972, the “Fernwood Dental Clinic” began operation. On October 28th, 1976, Cool Aid was incorporated as the Victoria Cool Aid Society.

>>> Read the complete history of Cool Aid, 1968-2008 (10 Mb PDF). See historic photos . <<<

Throughout the 1980s, Cool Aid grew as one of British Columbia’s largest non-profit organizations. Today, the society operates a diverse range of housing, social and health services for those in our community who are most vulnerable. The Victoria Cool Aid Society works to eliminate homelessness by advocating for and providing clients with supported housing, emergency shelter, and integrated health and life skill services – and has been doing so since 1968. Cool Aid’s 40th Anniversary activities are described elsewhere on the web site.

This story provided courtesy of Shaw TV Victoria and hosted on Cool Aid’s YouTube channel.


A Growing Commitment to Housing

There was a time when the homeless, poor, ill and addicted people returned again and again to emergency shelters in the city – they simply had nowhere else to go. Affordable housing in the 1980s was drying up and large mental institutions were shutting down, leaving people with little support for getting off the street. Shelter workers were frustrated to see the cycles of homelessness unbroken, and the homeless themselves were trapped in an eviction cycle from whatever, often substandard, housing they could find.

Cool Aid’s Housing Program is specifically designed for the hard-to-house homeless population in our community. It demonstrates the success of how a supported, independent living, social housing, not-for-profit model can provide a very cost-effective solution to the crisis of homelessness in Canada.

The housing program began approximately 18 years ago with the opening of Swift House, and now includes the Pandora Apartments, Mike Gidora Place, Johnson Manor, FairWay Woods, Desmond House, Cedar Grove and Hillside Terrace. In addition, we are in the process of developing new housing initiatives, and educating the community about issues related to homelessness. All of our tenants have been either homeless, or homeless-at-risk, and all manage issues related to mental health and addictions.

Swift House was designed specifically for the hard-tohouse, and it was the first supported independent-living project of its kind in Canada. It opened in 1991, and provides 26 subsidized apartments with resident support workers. The project soon developed into a tenant-involved community. Residents set up a social space, became involved in decision-making, and took on caretaking duties of their building.

The Pandora Project was our next development, and it incorporated feedback from many of the Swift House tenants. It is comprised of the Pandora Apartments, the Downtown Community Activity Centre (DCAC), and the YM/YWCA Youth Apartments. The Pandora Apartments opened in 1997, and provides 32 supported independent living suites. Resident support workers facilitate tenant-run newsletters, in-house choir groups, community kitchens, art therapy sessions, regular shopping expeditions, camping trips and work searches.

The Acitivity Centre opened in 1997, and plays a key role in allowing residents of all our housing projects and other downtown community members a chance to build friendships, have access to recreational facilities. The downtown Centre is available for rentals, which offers a mid-size gymnasium, a non-commercial kitchen, and an outdoor courtyard.

In 1998, the YM/YWCA opened eight units of transitional youth housing geared toward teaching life skills and good tenancy skills to youth aged 15 to 19. Each youth, with the help of their counsellor, developed a plan to enhance their independence, self-esteem and quality of life within a community-oriented living environment.

Mike Gidora Place was named in memory of Cool Aid’s former financial administrator Mike Gidora. It opened in 2000, and provides 45 subsidized independent living apartments. Mike Gidora is also the site for the REES Network and the Community Casual Labour Pool.

Johnson Manor was built on the success of Swift House and the Pandora Apartments. It is designed for tenants who have had the most difficulty in maintaining safe, affordable housing. It opened in 2001, and provides 24-hour on-site support for 20 residents. It has proven to be a cost-effective model for dealing with individuals managing mental health and poly-substance use issues.

FairWay Woods opened in 2003, and provides 32 units of supportive housing for seniors with special needs who are homeless, or are at risk of becoming homeless in Langford. It is close to bus service, parks, walkways, and has easy accessibility to stores and restaurants. Staff members provide 24-hour on-site support for the residents. Dinner is provided each day in the dining room, and gives residents an opportunity to build friendships with one another.

Hillside Terrace is our newest housing project. It opened in 2005, and co-located with the Aberdeen Seniors Centre. Hillside Terrace provides 45 subsidized, wheelchair accessible, one-bedroom apartments to seniors who have difficulty fitting into regular housing situations and need a higher level of care. The Vancouver Island Health Authority provides personal care and Cool Aid the housing infrastructure plus community development within the building.

This story hosted on Cool Aid’s YouTube channel.