Shepherds of Humble Beginnings
It all started with some sandwiches and a classified ad.
Father Jack Heffernan, pastor of Saint Brigid’s parish in Ottawa’s Lowertown neighbourhood, had a problem. Throughout the winter of 1983, people — homeless people — had been knocking on the rectory door, hoping for a meal. The church housekeeper was overwhelmed; even with the assistance of volunteer sandwich-makers, she couldn’t meet the need.
So Father Heffernan made an appeal to his congregation, and together, they decided to open a kitchen in basement of the church. The pastor placed an ad in the Ottawa Citizen looking for volunteers to help feed the hungry.
People answered his call.
The first meal, served on February 7, 1983, did not present too much of a challenge: seven volunteers for only two clients. But word spread, demand grew, and by October, Shepherds of Good Hope had incorporated as a non-profit organization.
In November, we added an emergency shelter for those who had nowhere to go once they had eaten. And by late December 1983, the kitchen was running seven days a week.
In October 1985, the kitchen, emergency shelter and other services, which had been added to address emerging needs, moved into the former Saint Brigid’s School at 233 Murray Street.
In 1987, the archbishop agreed to lease the school building and land to Shepherds of Good Hope for $1.00 a year, under the condition that the property continue to be used to assist the poor. To this day, our kitchen, grocery and clothing programs, and administrative offices operate out of this building.
In the following years, we continued to expand to meet our clients’ needs — most notably by forming its supportive housing programs, which provide permanent homes to individuals who suffer from mental health, addiction and/or trauma challenges.
In 1996, Good Day Workshop opened at the Bronson Centre. The program provides working participants with a safe community where they can trust, laugh, work, build friendships, and learn valued skills in woodworking, refinishing, and operating in a business environment. Many of these participants experience barriers to employment due to living with physical disabilities, mental illness or addictions.
In 1999, the main emergency shelter services moved to their current location at 256 King Edward Avenue.
In May 2000, working in partnership with Ottawa Inner City Health Inc., we established the now world-renowned Managed Alcohol Program, to provide tailored harm-reduction services for chronic alcoholics.
In May 2004, we opened St. Andrew’s Residence, our most independent residence providing supportive housing for individuals who require limited supports.
In November 2008, Brigid’s Place opened, offering a no-barrier home for women who have experienced life on the streets.
In 2009, we purchased two additional buildings to establish The Oaks, a Managed Alcohol Program supportive housing facility.
In June 2013, we opened our newest housing facility, Hope Living. This supportive housing residence, located in Kanata, provides a home for individuals who live with mental health and physical challenges, many of whom are aging.
TODAY AND TOMORROW
Today, we foster hope and reduce harm in Ottawa by supporting the homeless and most vulnerable with specialized services, programs and partnerships.
Through our specialized services, programs and partnerships, we help address challenges with mental health, addictions and trauma. And every day, we:
- Help stabilize people through our specialized shelter programs
- Provide permanent homes with on-site, around-the-clock support in our supportive housing facilities
- Serve thousands at our kitchen, drop-in centre, and grocery and clothing programs
- Help prepare people for employment through our social enterprise program