Guidance Through Culture
Located in the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver Aboriginal Health Society’s purpose is to improve and promote the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of individuals, particularly focusing on the urban Indigenous community of Greater Vancouver.
Our approach to health is holistic so that we can proactively address the social determinants of health rather than simply treating the illnesses they cause.
By providing trauma- and violence-informed programs and services, we create a safe and community-driven environment characterized by a "culture of caring." This is an environment that is free of judgment and aims to restore the well-being of our clients.
Indigenous culture is at the foundation of our approach to health and well-being. We incorporate all four aspects of the medicine wheel (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health) into our services, programs and community building. As such, we can provide guidance through culture and create opportunities for individuals to move into a space of thriving.
“As we strive to help people achieve balance in their lives, as well as in our own, it is our hope that we can contribute in some small way to whatever the term "Reconciliation" may mean.”
- Lou Demerais, Founder and Executive Director (1991 - 2019)
Vancouver Aboriginal Health Society was established in 1991 to address the lack of healthcare for urban Indigenous people in Greater Vancouver. The philosophy of VAHS was founded on an Indigenous understanding of the deep connection between individual well-being and community: Good health in one is essential to good health in the other.
VAHS grew from an after-hours medical clinic in order to provide services and programs to meet the needs of a client base struggling with overlapping social challenges and con-current health issues that often result from poverty and intergenerational trauma. Our clients often deal with substance misuse, mental health challenges, racism and discrimination, chronic disease, and homelessness.
Today, VAHS delivers comprehensive medical, counselling, and social services to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside community and beyond.