How a local organization is helping Victoria’s vulnerable populations access care
For those diagnosed with a terminal illness, navigating the intricacies of the health care system and making plans for future care can be challenging tasks. However, for people also living in poverty, with homelessness, with mental health issues or addictions, accessing quality care and support can be nearly impossible.
Fortunately, funding from a local organization is helping Victoria Hospice create change for these vulnerable populations.
Since 2013, the Sovereign Order of St. John’s of Jerusalem, Victoria Commandery (SOSJ) has provided $50,000 each year for the Closer to the Community Counsellor project. It’s a unique initiative that allows Victoria Hospice community counsellors – trained specialists who help patients and families navigate care issues and maintain their quality of life throughout the dying process – to conduct outreach and provide care to Victoria’s poor and marginalized populations.
The results so far have been impressive: more than 2,000 people have received counselling as a result of SOSJ’s support, and several new programs, including regular support group sessions at Our Place inner-city community centre, have been launched.
The project has also allowed Victoria Hospice to participate in research that seeks to explore (and ultimately improve) systemic gaps to providing quality end-of-life care to marginalized populations in Canada. One such study, led by UVic’s Dr. Kelli Stajduhar, an internationally renowned and award-winning researcher, is currently following 16 local participants to document and propose solutions to the barriers posed by poor health literacy, substance abuse, poor mobility and transportation options, food insecurity, discrimination, low income, inadequate housing, social isolation, and criminalization.
There remains much work to be done but, thanks to the SOSJ, every day Victoria Hospice is able to take another step towards its ultimate vision: quality end-of-life care for all.