Over 30 years ago, on February 15, 1988, House of Refuge Sunnyslope took in their first six homeless residents. Founded by Elmer and Mim Miller, members of the Sunnyslope Mennonite Church, they would drive downtown each night, pick them up, feed them, house them for the night, and then drive them back in the morning. A different set of volunteers from the church would stay with the residents every night.
Since then, HRS has housed thousands of residents in its faith-based, long-term, transitional housing program. We operate three programs: men (1988), women with children (2010) and women (2015). Our capacity is between 70 and 80 individuals.
We also operate a food bank/kitchen in conjunction with St. Mary’s Food Bank which processes over 180 tons of food a year. This provides all our food needs, helps 12 other ministries, and supports multiple families with weekly food boxes. Another key component is our high volunteer involvement. Over 12,000 volunteer hours a year keep the ministry running, allowing us to keep a small staff.
HRS helps people who have come from situations of imprisonment, addiction, and chronic unemployment get back on their feet. We meet their physical needs for food, shelter, and safety. But our true passion is to transform their lives by helping them learn practical life skills, engage in community, and find spiritual restoration. HRS uses a personalized “whole person” approach for each resident, to include one-on-one mentoring, a structured job search process, and programs designed to meet other critical needs. As a result, they have had great success in helping program participants become self-sufficient and productive members of the community.