Sanctuary is a Christian charitable organization that seeks to establish and develop holistic, inclusive and healthy community. We welcome people who have, for the most part, known only rejection and abuse. Our core community includes:
- people who are homeless and people who run their own businesses
- middle-aged, middle-class people and squeegee kids
- university students and hardened street people.
Sharing our lives and our resources, we reach out to a downtown neighborhood plagued with homelessness, drugs, prostitution, unemployment and AIDS. We offer dignity, support and direction to people who want to reclaim healthy, meaningful lives. Through drop-ins, street outreach and one-to-one relationships, we offer food, clothing and basic health care. Our staff help individual community members access welfare, housing, legal counsel, medical care, counseling, therapy or drug rehabilitation. Perhaps the most valuable thing we offer is simple friendship.
The most fundamental need of people on the street is something that most people take for granted; a meaningful place in a healthy community, a sense of belonging. Without it, drug rehab, housing or employment programs have little effect. Without it, people remain trapped in a lifestyle that is difficult to escape. When people don’t feel like they belong, they just can’t seem to recover. For most people on the street, their experiences of community have been dysfunctional at best. Rather than simply duplicating social services, Sanctuary provides a unique, healthy community – a safe place. We say: “If you’re willing to share your life with us, we’ll share ours with you. We’ll encourage you when you mess up, help you find direction when you’re not sure which way to go, hold you when you’re hurting, and help you discover, strengthen and focus your gifts and abilities. We’re here for the long haul.” It’s not uncommon for people in the Sanctuary community to tell us, “You’re the closest thing that I have to family.”
It began with the band Red Rain in 1985. Its members had a passion for God and a clear sense that God was calling them to “take it to the streets.” They moved from playing in Christian coffee houses and church basements to playing in bars, jails, festivals, and venues – taking the gospel where it doesn’t usually get heard. The vision for Sanctuary began to materialize when the band was invited by the Central Gospel Hall to use the church building for storage and practice sessions. That was Fall 1990. Richvale Bible Chapel commended Greg and Karen Paul as missionaries to the city in March 1992. Together, they began building a vision for the downtown core and reaching out to the marginalized people in the heart of the city. In December 1992, the one hundred year old Central Gospel Hall congregation met to worship for the last time in the funky old church in downtown Toronto. It had facilitated the planting of numerous assemblies in and around Toronto. But with the downtown core desolate of new residents, the congregation had become too small and too elderly to continue. Since that time, the century-old building near Yonge and Bloor, has become Sanctuary Ministries of Toronto, a haven of safety, security and respect for some of the most needy and marginalized people in the city of Toronto. The Wednesday Drop-In Lunch along with the Street Outreach programs started back in those early years and continue on today. As well, a number of otherprograms have come and gone through the years including various Drop-Ins, Health Care and Arts Programs. The number of staff facilitating the various programs has grown from 2 in the earliest years to our current total of 13. The opportunity to purchase the Central Gospel Hall building came in 1999. With no organized fundraising initiatives and little development experience, Sanctuary launched a capital campaign to raise $750,000 in less than eight months. With the support of individual donors – both existing and new supporters – as well as a number of large corporate donations, Sanctuary gained legal ownership of the building in early 2000. With the need for this type of ministry continually on the rise, we look forward to pursuing further developments and expanding our services to this community in the years ahead.
Board of Directors
Board Chair Person