In November 2000, the Umbrella Society was formed because one man, who struggled with addiction issues, needed help, and was fortunate enough to receive it.

Gordon, the founder of Umbrella, took his personal experiences and began to seek out peer support opportunities with an addiction focus, that would help individuals who had been struggling with their own substance use issues.

And, so began the Umbrella Society.

Conversations, system navigation and peer support were offered to all individuals who needed and wanted it.

As Umbrella’s reputation and community ties strengthened, so did funding opportunities. Umbrella continued to grow, and both our programs and our compassionate approach were welcomed and celebrated.

In May 2008 Sharlene was hired as an outreach worker and to provide some much-needed administrative support.  The demand for Umbrella’s outreach services reached capacity for workers like Kiran, Chris, Angela, Trevor and Evan – some of the staff who have been an integral part of our outreach team. Sharlene moved to a Team Lead position and helped support the staff as Umbrella began expanding our services in collaboration with Island Health.

On April 1, 2015, Umbrella took over the operations of Foundation House and continued to provide a home for men recovery from addictions. At the same time, the house counsellor, Terry, moved to Umbrella and we expanded his role to include a much-needed family counselling program.

In the same year, Sharlene began to prepare for her new role to Executive Director in November 2016. This promotion provided Gordon with the opportunity to retire in 2017.

Under Sharlene’s leadership, Umbrella expanded their housing program and took on two additional men’s recovery house (Cooper House and Potter House) and a women’s recovery house (Hudson House) and in 2019 Umbrella was awarded the Housing Provider of the Year award by the BC Non-Profit Housing Society.

In 2018, Umbrella was offered the opportunity to purchase Foundation House at a reduced rate. Needing to raise the down payment, fundraising planning began, and Umbrella had their first ever fundraiser in February 2019 – a NHL Alumni hockey game with the Montreal Canadiens taking on the Greater Victoria Firefighters. This inaugural event was a huge success and helped raise approximately $35,000 – so we did it again! In October of the same year, we brought the Boston Bruins Alumni to Victoria to play the same team. It was another successful event with another $35,000 raised.

In July of 2019, Umbrella moved from the only home we knew, in Quadra Village Community Centre, to our own office space in the Burnside Gorge area and expanded our offerings to include groups and educational opportunities.

With some help from a local journalist, Kendra Creighton, Umbrella was showcased in a series of articles that featured our houses, staff and resident stories. These helped generate additional donations and Umbrella was able to purchase Foundation House on February 28, 2020.

Umbrella has grown and continues to grow, and we have had some incredible staff bring their passion, drive and experience to our team; Under Sharlene’s leadership, staff like Evan who is our manager of training and outreach, Blake who runs our Island Health programs and hosts our podcast, Jake manages our Outreach Program and is Team Lead to all staff, Sarah runs our transitional housing sites, Brianna is is our HR manger, Trevor is a new addition to the management team as Community Development Manager, and then there is Shelagh who runs our office and keeps us all in line.

This year is Umbrella’s 24th year, and we have a lot to be celebrating! Making it through a pandemic and not just surviving, but thriving and continually increasing our resources to support individuals and their loved ones who need our support. We are very fortunate to work within a great community of people who care and to be a part of the recovery journey of thousands of people annually.

The success of Umbrella is because of our amazing, insightful Board of Directors, past and present, and our dedicated and caring employees who passionately believe in the work we do and in helping others.

Here’s to another 20 …