The Independent Living Housing Society was founded in 1976 by a group of people who lived at the Gorge Road Hospital in its Extended Care Unit. They shared the desire to live a more independent lifestyle free of institutional constraints, and had a meeting to discuss new and innovative housing options. Out of those people, four decided that they were compatible and could live together. They were also willing to take responsibility for hiring and firing care workers, looking after the physical maintenance of a house, and paying the rent, utilities, and their household expenses. A renovated, wheelchair-modified house in the Swan Lake area was purchased and the first tenants moved in on May 25th, 1976. In 1978, a second home was opened in the Tillicum area. It was a newly constructed home designed specifically to address the needs of persons with physical, mental, or multiple challenges.
The new Society was initially operated under the auspices of the G.R. Pearkes Clinic and funded by a cross section of government ministries and other non-profit organizations. The formal mission of the new Society was developed, “To respond to the expressed consumer need for independent living by providing and assisting with community based independent living options for persons with physical or developmental challenges.” The opportunity was thereby created for any person who so desired to be in control of their environment and all decisions concerning their personal needs and care, who their roommates would be, home furnishings and décor, house maintenance, meal planning and preparation, as so on. As the organization grew, administrative work originally handled by the residents was transferred to the Society. On October 2, 1986, G.R. Pearkes Clinic turned the houses over to the ILHS for $1.00.
The ILHS subsequently developed and constructed a house in the Gordon Head area, which was officially opened on June 22, 1990. It is a licensed home funded by the Ministry for Children and Family Development, Services for Community Living Branch. To protect the assets of the new home, a separate society was formed in 1988, called the Independent Living Housing Society Of Greater Victoria. The two societies later amalgamated, as both were serving the needs of the same group of people.
Throughout the 1990’s, the Independent Living Housing Society opened three other housing resources: a residential home located in the Gordon Head area, a house in the Swan Lake area with one permanent tenant and three respite beds, and one floor of an apartment building in the Tillicum area with seven, one-bedroom apartments. The Independent Living Housing Society continues to work to provide opportunities for individuals to develop a more independent lifestyle in a very active way, and to the extent that they are able, manage housing finances, participate in decision-making, and direct activities of daily living.
I like living at The Heathers because it does not feel like an institution and I have my own space and I have access to transportation like BC Transit and HandyDart. I can plan my own activities and make my own choices. Sometimes we get together as a group for brunches, suppers and movies and can socialize with other residents. I like the set up at The Heathers and I expect to be here for quite a while.