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 experiencing homelessness 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 hungry people.

The community 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 people with low income or no income. To this day, our kitchen, drop-in program, and administrative offices operate out of this building.

In the following years, we continued to expand to meet our clients’ needs — most notably by creating out supportive housing programs, which provide permanent homes to individuals who suffer from mental health challenges, addictions and/or trauma.


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 its 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 people with chronic alcohol dependencies.


In May 2004, we opened St. Andrew’s Residence, our supportive housing residence for individuals who require limited supports and who can live more independently.


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.


Thanks to the kindness and generosity of McMillan, one of Canada’s leading creative agencies, Shepherds of Good Hope rebranded to a bolder more colourful image. All of the work for this rebrand was done pro bono by McMillan and other partners as a donation to Shepherds of Good Hope.


Shepherds of Good Hope closed and sold Brigid’s Place and used the funds to begin construction on a new 42-unit apartment-style supportive housing facility at 765 Montreal Road, set to be complete by 2021.


Shepherds of Good Hope faced one of the most challenging times in our history with a housing and homelessness state of emergency, a toxic drug overdose epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to our amazing staff and volunteers, strong community partnerships, the generosity of our donors and resilience of our service users, we not only got through the pandemic but are building for the future.


Our newest residence at 765 Montreal Road opened its doors to 42 residents in March 2021, while Shepherds of Good Hope also received funding through the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative to build 8 more units at Hope Living in Kanata and 48 units in a new facility at 216 Murray St. which will open its doors in 2024.

We also purchased the former Parklane Residence at 1095 Merivale Road to be developed into our newest supportive housing residence.

By 2022 we will hit a significant milestone as we house more people in our supportive housing programs than are staying in our shelter!


Today, we foster hope and reduce harm in Ottawa by supporting people experiencing homelessness and vulnerable adults. Through our specialized services, programs and partnerships, we help to address challenges with mental health, addictions and trauma. And every day, we: