December 10, 2023

A new integrated community health unit in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside will be named after a former nurse who worked in the neighbourhood and is now an established philanthropist.

Lily Lee donated $3.8 million to the planned facility at 58 West Hastings Street that, once complete, will provide purpose-built, culturally-appropriate services in 50,000 square feet of space.

“It seemed to be a logical fit for me to be able to do something that I think is very worthwhile for the Downtown Eastside,” said Lee, whose donation was provided through the Chinatown Foundation.

“It’s really exciting and feels really fulfilling.”

A rendering of the planned Lily Lee Community Health Centre at 58 West Hastings Street in Vancouver.


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Lee moved to Vancouver from Alert Bay, B.C. at the age of 16 to attend nursing school at the University of British Columbia. She spent several years working as a public health nurse in the DTES in the 1950s, during what she described as a “much simpler time.”

Her experience there stayed with her, she told Global News.

The 10-storey Lily Lee Community Health Centre Hastings will also include 231 units of social housing. While the health centre will be operated by Vancouver Coastal Health, the project was built with support from BC Housing, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation.

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“Our family philosophy is about building community,” said Carol Lee, Lee’s daughter and the Chinatown Foundation chair.

“We’re the Chinatown Foundation but we thought, well let’s help our next-door neighbour first because we can’t really do it on our own if we don’t have a healthy neighbourhood.”

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Carol said she hopes the centre inspires others to dream about what’s possible in the DTES with a bit of teamwork/

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The centre at 58 West Hastings Street has been in the works for about a decade and was also a dream of Lee’s late husband and philanthropy partner, Robert.

“It’s a place that meets people’s needs where they’re at,” said Guy Felicella, peer clinical advisor for Vancouver Coastal Health. “Being able to access something with community support is probably the most therapeutic thing that could happen for that community.”

The facility is expected to open in 2024, pending the provincial government and health authority’s approval.

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