Let’s build a world without AIDS or HIV
Who are we?
Sidalys is a non-profit organization that provides shelter for people living with HIV/AIDS in Montreal. Sidalys resulted from the 2005 merger of Maison Amaryllis and Centre de Services Sida Secours du Québec. Since then it has housed over 500 people in its three shelters: Centre Amaryllis, Centre Sida Secours and Habitations Jean-Pierre-Valiquette.
To improve the quality of life and the physical and mental health of people suffering from sexually transmitted and blood-borne diseases, mainly people living with HIV/AIDS who are isolated, vulnerable and with no fixed address or at risk of homelessness
To maintain various different types of transitional shelters for those people
To encourage them to take charge of their own lives with a view to medium- and long-term integration
To increase social accessibility for them
The three Sidalys centres
Centre Sida Secours
Its role is to make it easier for people suffering from AIDS to access organizations that dispense services. Residents are directly in touch with field workers during short stays (less than 90 days).Find out more
Habitations Jean-Pierre-Valiquette (HJPV)
These are 19 apartments subsidized under the Rent Supplement Program for people living with HIV/AIDS who have special needs. Those needs may be occasional or regular, and may require help, guidance and support at different times.Find out more
For HIV-positive people who are coping with the added problem of aging, the continual obstacles of life and abject isolation. The team members make them welcome and help them. Residents stay for different lengths of time, depending on their situations.Find out more
AIDS started its ravages at the beginning of the 1980s. It was a new disease, no one knew how to treat it, and everyone was afraid of getting infected. They called it the gay plague. Supported by friends, AIDS sufferers set up various different service organizations at the time. Habitations Jean-Pierre-Valiquette and Maison Amaryllis were among the earliest such initiatives.
Centre de Services Sida Secours du Québec (CSSSQ)
In 1988, the Fondation Sida Secours and the Fondation Paneguris joined forces to set up a hospice. The Fondation Sida Secours du Québec (FSSQ) was created, with the mission of finding original and appropriate responses to the ever-changing needs of people living with HIV/AIDS.
A first hospice, Habitations Jean-Pierre-Valiquette, was opened in 1989 thanks to the efforts of a handful of people, including Jean-Pierre-Valiquette, an HIV sufferer himself. Those people put loads of time and energy into creating a living space where sufferers could live in decent apartments and experience life and death together, breaking through the extreme isolation they were exposed to at the time.
In 1990, the Quebec government starting funding organizations that provided services to people living with AIDS. Since foundations are not entitled to government subsidies, the FSSQ directors created a new non-profit organization called Centre de Services Sida Secours du Québec. Its mission was to improve life for the worst-off AIDS sufferers by tailoring services as their disease and needs progressed and as medical treatment evolved. The Centre dispensed the services provided by Sida Secours, while the Foundation raised funds.
When the community AIDS hospice network was starting to develop, there was nowhere for women to go. At that time, AIDS principally affected gay men, and women often did not feel comfortable in mainly masculine settings. That is why the Centre de Services Sida Secours du Québec decided to create a resource for women only in 1992: the Maison Luc Larivée. As soon as it opened, women living in Luc Larivée house were found to have not only very shaky mental health, but also significant psychosocial disorganization, drug and alcohol problems, reliance on prostitution, difficult family situations and several other disastrous situations.
Based on that experience, and since women only accounted for 10% of all sufferers and very few shelters accepted clients with substance abuse issues and psychosocial disorganization, we decided in 1995 to bring in men, especially those with the same psychosocial profile as the women residents.
Around 1997, the advent of new drugs greatly changed life for people living with HIV/AIDS. Death and hospitalization rates plummeted, and the health of many of our residents improved significantly. Initially skeptical, we did not change any of our services for several months because we were not sure the progress would continue. Since 1989, we had seen nothing but disappointment and many deaths. It has to be said: the new drugs did not eradicate the disease, and AIDS has not been cured. However, the new drugs have greatly changed the shelter needs of people living with AIDS. The new version of AIDS affected addicted and disordered people more and more—people whose lifestyle makes it hard or even impossible to take drugs regularly.
With all the upheavals, the Centre de Services Sida Secours du Québec decided to review all of its practices and services in 1999. Many consultations took place with everyone closely or remotely connected with the Centre’s activities. Hospice services were also affected, and there were many discussions as to how they should continue to be provided. We concluded that the hospices should no longer provide palliative care services, as they did at the beginning. It was decided to close Maison Luc Larivée and devote at least one of our buildings to the most marginalized people, those affected by extreme social dysfunctionality, great psychological distress and serious AIDS-related health problems. That is how the Centre Sida Secours (CSS) started.
Centre Sida Secours
For people living with AIDS who have mental health, addiction or homelessness problems, daily life is an endless struggle filled with psychological distress. Rejection, exclusion and prejudices are part of every day, and the way they live is not always compatible with societal structures. These people are sometimes hard to help, but that does not mean they are not entitled to the same health and social care and services as everyone else. Our role at the Centre Sida Secours is therefore to help them access the organizations that dispense those services. Residents stay for a short time (less than 90 days) and the action plan is centred on health (renewed contacts with case workers and health professionals, checkups, renewed courses of treatment, etc.).
Habitations Jean-Pierre-Valiquette (HJPV)
When we reorganized our services in 2000, we decided not to be present in the building on a full-time basis. The CSSSQ administrative office, which had been on Bercy street (where the HJPV is) moved to Ste-Famille street. That caused much insecurity among the tenants. Even though we continued to provide a range of services very similar to those available before we left, the fact that we no longer had an office in the community and were not there on a daily basis was seen by many as abandonment. In addition, one of the admission criteria requires new applicants to have a stated need for guidance and support. We had sometimes admitted people who were so dysfunctional that they were asked to leave their apartments. That added to the feelings of insecurity and abandonment. Right now, thanks to the resource leadership, calm has been restored and community spirit is reawakening. Although there are few apartments becoming available, HJPV is an important part of the CSSSQ’s work. It is part of our service continuum, and an eventual connection with Maison Amaryllis could complete the range of services we provide.
Maison Amaryllis goes back to the beginning of the 1990s, when a single individual opened a hospice in Oka where “the people no one wants can die with dignity.” In April 1992, an incident casting doubt on the admission of one of the residents into the community led to the sudden closing of the centre.
Maison Amaryllis reopened on Panet street in Montreal at the end of 1992 with the same director. Even though the house was not ideal (few private rooms, inadequate staircase, etc.), it did provide beds for a rejected clientèle. In spite of the inconvenience, and although the focus was put on AIDS, the house continued to welcome people who were hard to accommodate elsewhere: homeless people suffering from AIDS who had or had previously experienced addiction problems.
Maison Amaryllis received its first government grants in 1994-95, and relied on fundraising to cover its expenses. It also received substantial funding from religious communities, especially from the Sœurs de la Providence and the Oblats de Marie Immaculée.
In 1996, the organization bought the building and started renovating it. After some years of unstable management, a director was hired and ran the place from 1996 to 2001. That was a breath of fresh air. He stabilized the infrastructure, introduced operating rules and restored calm to the Maison after its somewhat checkered past. All of this happened just as new drugs entered the scene with a potential to reduce the demand for palliative care and to change (although not reduce) the needs of sufferers. People started to live longer, which generated a new set of problems. Those who were able to take the triple therapy experienced many side effects. Living longer also unfortunately led to new diseases which had not had time to appear when people died early.
The director resigned in 2001, provoking further instability and insecurity among the residents and staff. It was hard to replace him, and the board thought about a part-time manager as part of a restructuring process. The board approached the Centre de Services Sida Secours du Québec, which started managing the Maison in February 2003.
A year later, the board members felt the need for a tighter connection. In April 2004, they decided to seek a way of making the relationship even closer.
The long reflection process eventually led to a full merger of both organizations. The corporation was dissolved on March 31, 2005 and replaced by Sidalys, a new corporation resulting from the merger of Maison Amaryllis and the Centre de Services Sida Secours du Québec, on April 1, 2005.
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