Vancouver Harbour Light Today

Vancouver Harbour Light has been a vital presence in the Downtown Eastside for 65 years, serving a community extending across British Columbia. Over those years, to meet diverse and evolving needs, Vancouver Harbour Light has grown to a four-building campus to include buildings on both sides of East Cordova Street.

Vancouver Harbour Light today feeds and shelters more people than any non-governmental organization in British Columbia. Despite its size, every day it builds the one-on-one relationships proven to have the greatest impact on people’s lives.

Of the staff currently working with us, 30 per cent are former clients. This type of peer support and lived experience is invaluable. It allows our staff to break through barriers, understand our clients unique circumstance and be more effective in their journey to recovery.

Providing a comprehensive continuum of care model that wraps services around people at every point of their lives, our programs and services include community meals, addiction treatment and emergency and transitional housing – these services are offered to all who come through our doors.

Amazing work happens at Harbour Light every day, but the reality is that a building that was built over 60 years ago cannot continue to meet the urgent need and growing demands of today.

“Vancouver Harbour Light today feeds and shelters more people than any non-governmental organization in British Columbia.”

our Challenges

The four buildings that comprise Vancouver Harbour Light date back to the 1920s. Never designed for their current use (the building at 138 East Cordova was originally a theatre), all have been redeveloped over the decades to provide programs and services. Most of this redevelopment was done when the response to addiction and homelessness was much different than the evidence-informed response of today, and when the demand for services was much lower and the needs far less complex.

Substantial renovations over the years have enabled Vancouver Harbour Light to adapt to evolutions in knowledge and practice, and to largely keep pace with demand.

It has remained a safe, welcoming hub of services by making do with current space.

However, Vancouver Harbour Light’s century-old facilities are now well beyond their life span and their capacity. They are physically and functionally obsolete and, for all intents and purposes, “used up.”

Six reasons we need to rebuild:

Costly to Maintain

  • The ongoing cost of maintaining a dated facility with separate heating, air conditioning and plumbing systems, including the high cost of repairs when they fail.

Dated and Crowded

  • Current dormitory or institutional-style shelter spaces offer little privacy for clients, very little light, crowded bathroom facilities, and a lack of fresh air.

Safety and Security

  • Safety concerns for clients, volunteers, and staff who must cross a busy street to access services located in four separate buildings.

Lack of Accessibility

  • Interior building mazes of long, narrow hallways and staircases resulting in poor accessibility for senior clients and those with mobility issues.

Outgrown our Capacity

  • Long client line-ups outside for people accessing the community meals program strips away a person’s dignity and causes access issues for other businesses.

Lack of Functionality

  • A general lack of flexibility within the building to adapt to changing client numbers, while restricting types of programming and services we can offer.