St. James Community Service Society
St. James Community Service Society is a broad-based social service agency providing care and support today for the most marginalized and vulnerable, while also working to transform communities for the future. For 50 years we have been making a difference in the lives of people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, throughout the city, and across the Lower Mainland.
We care for those who face homelessness, poverty and isolation, mental illness and addictions, as well as chronic and terminal illness. Our team of 300 dedicated staff provide a spectrum of crisis, housing, personal care, financial support, and end-of-life services to over 2,000 people a year.
The Society was founded by volunteers from the nearby St. James Anglican Church who wanted to actively address the social issues in the parish. Led by May Gutteridge, one of the Downtown Eastside's best known figures, the organization steadily grew over the years, becoming the professional and respected social services agency it is today.
At St. James we deal with the complexities of life: when people with good intentions and modest aspirations find themselves, and sometimes their children, homeless. When addictions have taken control of their lives, or when they find themselves too ill or isolated to survive independently, or even manage meager incomes. When they are unable to care for themselves or their loved ones in the time of their greatest need: the final weeks and months of life.
The work of everyone at St. James is to provide care and improve quality of life to those most at-risk. Sometimes this means a modest goal: keeping someone safe for a single night, making sure they have money for a meal today, or just clean clothes to wear. As often as not though, the milestones are large and significant by anyone’s measure: a permanent home, a family kept together, health and spirit renewed, or a peaceful death.
We also help people deal with the stigmas and judgments that go with so many of these issues. No-one sets out in life to suffer from an addiction, or a mental illness, or to struggle looking after their children. No-one sets out to be homeless, live in poverty, or not be able to care for themselves.
We also have to work to shift wider perceptions about these issues. No-one imagined when the Society was founded that “managing” homelessness across our City would be an acceptable alternative to eliminating it. No-one imagined that concerted action around a common vision for a vibrant and sustainable Downtown Eastside would be so elusive. We recognize these wider, systemic challenges and the need to work together with others towards common solutions.