House of Compassion was founded by a group of concerned citizens who were inspired to address the impacts of deinstitutionalization on individuals living with severe mental illness.
In 1986, Bill Kerr - for many years a worker in inner city missions in Toronto - made a presentation to his fellow congregants at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church entitled “No Fixed Address”. Three members of the congregation, Gerard Collins, Dr. Robert Inman and Michael Wills, decided to join Bill to do something about the need to provide supportive housing to our City's most vulnerable. They had the strong support of the Minister of the Congregation, Rev. Dr. John Gladstone, who rallied the congregation in support of the plan.
The four met regularly over the next year and a half to formulate a vision for House of Compassion. Together they developed a vision for a home that would provide stability, support and hope, as well as promote empowerment, dignity, choice and an emphasis on community integration and support.
House of Compassion was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit in January, 1988 and the four founders became members of the first volunteer Board of Directors.
House of Compassion becomes home to 10 people in 1989
Over the next year, House of Compassion - with financial support from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing - purchased two row houses on Shaw Street. These houses were then adapted to provide single room accommodations for five men and five women. Staff were hired and the first residents moved in to House of Compassion in October 1989.
It was clear from the beginning that most resident applications were coming from individuals who were living with a diagnosis of severe and persistent mental illness, and some were coping with addictions as well. Operating funding was sourced through donations, mostly from members of the Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, as well as Rent-Geared-To-Income funding from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
In 2000, House of Compassion expands and becomes home to 11 more people
In 2000, recognizing the need for more high level supportive housing in the City, the Board of Directors embarked on an expansion project. A capital fundraising campaign successfully raised funds to purchase the third row house at the current Shaw Street location.
The board also applied for, and was awarded, capital funding for the retrofitting of the properties through the Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative (SCPI) program, a federal grant from the Government of Canada. SCPI funds paid for extensive renovations which saw the three houses merged into one complex and an addition at the rear of the house on the third floor which added seven new bedrooms, for a total of 21 bedrooms, effectively doubling House of Compassion’s capacity. Rent Supplements were provided by the City for the additional 11 units.
With this expansion, the heart of the home became the central kitchen/dining area which stretches across the rear of the home and overlooks House of Compassion’s back garden.
House of Compassion continued to develop through meaningful partnerships, such as our partnerships with St. Jude Community Homes and the City of Toronto. In 2006, the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care began to provide operating funding to House of Compassion. Remaining operating expenses continue to be covered by generous donations.
Today House of Compassion provides 24 hour supportive housing for 21 residents, 13 women and 8 men. With the round-the-clock presence of caring and supportive staff, our residents are able to live in the community with dignity and hope.
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