St. Christopher House, 1912-2012: a century of social services in Toronto

Mission Statement and Guiding Principles for the 1990s

In the 1990s, St. Christopher House's Mission Statement and Guiding Principles reaffirmed it's commitment to a community development model whose roots had been growing since the 1960s. Social advocacy gained a even larger weigh in the activities of the House during this decade, as part of a multi pronged approach to improve the lives of less-advantaged members of the community.

"Mission Statement

St. Christopher House has as its central purpose the enabling of less-advantaged individuals, families and groups in the community to gain greater control over their lives and their community.

Guiding Principles for the 1990s

St. Christopher House will work in partnership with the community to promote personal and social change in order to achieve a safe, healthy and accepting society for all. To this end, we will work with our resources and the strengths of the community to:
•    build bridges between cultures, classes, sexes, generations,and neighbourhoods;
•    promote access to full participation in society by addressing barriers like illiteracy, inadequate incomes, unaffordable housing, and discrimination of all types;
•    assist people to meet their individual and family needs;
•    provide the tools and opportunities for people to control their own lives and to take on leadership in the community;
•    advocate for changes in social systems that will ensure dignity, quality of life, and equal opportunities for all."

Housing Advocacy

The housing crisis in the neighbourhood was identified as one of the House’s top priorities in 1989. The following year, St. Christopher House hired a Housing Development Worker and created the Housing Advocacy and Development Program. The program took a leadership role in providing low-income people with opportunities to learn about the forces that affect housing and to work collectively to improve housing conditions. In 1991, as a member of the South West Toronto Housing Group, St. Christopher House contributed in the development of a 64-unit townhouse complex, which provided affordable housing to a number of the House’s participants and their families, particularly Aboriginal people.

Town Hall Meeting Series

In the 1990s, St. Christopher House inaugurated its Town Hall Meeting Series. These forums provided community members with the opportunity to express their concerns and discuss solutions with various experts and elected representatives. Through these meetings, the House also learned more about the issues that preoccupied the residents of the neighbourhood.

Neighbourhood Settlement Program

The neighbourhood where St. Christopher House moved to in the 1980s continued to be a major settlement area for new immigrants and refugees arriving in Canada. Starting in 1990, although following a long history of settlement services, the Neighbourhood Settlement Program offered information, referrals and advocacy for newcomers, particularly on immigration procedures and access to services, employment and training. It also sponsored ESL classes with the Toronto Board of Education.

The Alzheimer's Day Program

When Alzheimers is diagnosed in a family whose members have limited English language skills or insufficient knowledge of health care services in Canada, it can have devastating effects. The Alzheimer Day Program that opened at the House in 1990 was the first multilingual program of its kind in Canada. The participants came from various back-grounds, including Barbadian, Chinese, Jamaican, Polish, Portuguese and Lithuanian. A comprehensive public education program was undertaken in the community and in the multicultural media to raise awareness of the disease. Many health professionals expressed a great deal of interest in this program and encouraged the House to conduct a study on the issue.

Community Economic Development and the Minaake Project

In 1992, the House introduced the Community Economic Development project at the Meeting Place. This initiative was designed to provide flexible employment and supplementary income for the members. The first phase of the project was the launch of a greeting card business, which sold over 10,000 cards in the first year. The program expanded into the Minaake Project, which assisted individuals from Aboriginal communities dealing with the challenges of urban life. The project’s aim was twofold: to rekindle an interest in Aboriginal culture through a skills exchange program and help Aboriginal people in Toronto adjust to urban life or to return to their communities. Dan Fowler was one of the talented Ojibwa artists in this program, which ended in 1997.

Meeting Place Adult Drop-In moves to 588 Queen St. West

The Meeting Place Adult Drop-In was relocated from the Queen Street United Church to the CIBC building on 588 Queen Street West in 1995. Some administrative and financial offices also moved to this new site. This move met the growing need for space in the Drop-In program, and resulted in an increase in the numbers of participants, especially in the colder months. Being able to do laundry, take a shower, use a telephone, have a coffee, a conversation, and some social contact were crucial for people living on the street or in substandard housing. At the Meeting Place, members could take cooking lessons, participate in the camera club or writing group, or see the visiting nurse, dentist or legal worker.

← Previous Page Next Page →