Monday, September 25, 2023
September 25, 2023

Umbrella Society offers wide range of services

Members of a Victoria-based non-profit society made a presentation on Salt Spring Island Friday, July 21, hoping to spread the word about supports they offer for individuals experiencing substance use. 

Umbrella Society’s training and education manager Evan James said the organization was in its 22nd year of offering a range of programs aimed at addressing substance use issues and their concurrent mental health challenges. Umbrella facilitates transitional housing sites in Victoria, a model known as Housing Overdose Prevention Peer Support (HOPPS) that includes general support, advocacy and addiction resources alongside training and education for and with residents.  

On Salt Spring, Umbrella has been the housing operator and support team for residents at the Kings Lane transitional housing site since October 2022 — now nearly at its 18-bed capacity, according to staff — through a partnership with BC Housing, and with intake through that agency’s registry. But the group’s central focus from the start has been client-centred care, according to James — to help guide and advocate for people as they move through the recovery process. 

“Originally our introduction to Salt Spring Island came with some funding from Island Health,” said James. “They recognized there was a need for people over here who were struggling with substance use issues.” 

Umbrella offers one-on-one outreach and counselling on-island every Tuesday, sometimes in a structured format but often through a more informal check-in with clients’ progress. 

“Sometimes we facilitate referrals for getting people over to Victoria to a treatment centre, or whatever needs may arise,” said James. “Sometimes it’s just having coffee and supporting them, helping them set goals for the next week.” 

On days — and evenings — when an outreach worker isn’t on Salt Spring, Umbrella offers a host of regular online Zoom groups both on a pre-registered and drop-in basis. 

“We try to remove as many barriers [to getting help] as possible,” said James. “It’s not a discriminatory illness, it affects all walks of life.” 

Many of the groups have a more general focus, such as a weekly check-in for people at various places in their recovery, and some are targeted to specific groups; the “Hammer Time” Zoom group, for example, provides those working in the trades with a specifically tailored opportunity for connection, support and education. 

Umbrella’s counselling services for people with substance use issues are available both in-person and online, and are free; James said often new clients can be seen within a week or two, sometimes sooner. 

“The referral process is super easy,” said James. “You just call — or text — our office, and our admin people will figure out what your needs are and guide you in the right direction.” 

For information, call or text 250-380-0595, or send email enquiries to


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