Evangel Hall, an agency of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, has been providing food, housing, counselling and spiritual support to marginalized citizens of Toronto for nearly 70 years. By 2001, the organization had outgrown its original street front location. A federally-funded, municipally-managed building fund gave Evangel Hall the opportunity to build a new headquarters for its drop-in centre, medical clinic, job and housing placement centre, while providing much-needed housing for 84 clients who are ready to make the transition from life on the street to housing in the community.
The architects were challenged by a compressed building site within the city’s 19th-century industrial precinct, bounded by Victorian row houses and industrial buildings, and a rambling residential building that is now home to one of Toronto’s longest established theatre companies. In addition to providing Evangel Hall staff and clients with a safe and secure working and living environment, the architects were required to address the neighbourhood’s concerns about the effect on the community of an influx of residents who face a variety of social, medical and emotional challenges.
The residential component of the new Evangel Hall building provides bachelor, 1- and 2-bedroom units, which permits a flexible approach to different residents’ needs for privacy and communal living. The Residence offers such amenities as rooftop gardens and open areas, onsite laundry facilities and large east-facing windows – the antithesis of the ‘warehouse’ approach that is all too prevalent among SROs.