Our History

The Beginning

Fife House was founded by a group of concerned community members. Led by Mary Anne Shaw, they were inspired by the story of George Fife, a local lawyer who lost his struggle with AIDS. This group recognized the urgent need in Toronto for supportive housing for people living with HIV/AIDS. On February 10, 1988, they established Fife House as a charitable organization to begin to fill this need.

Growth in Programs

After a heroic fundraising effort, the first residence, Denison, was opened on July 1, 1990 with a capacity for five people living with HIV/AIDS. With many people trapped on the waiting list, the second residence, Hastings, was opened on June 1, 1991, doubling the number of spaces available. Fife House initiated 24-hour attendant care at these two residences in December 1994.

At the request of the municipal government, Fife House began providing supportive care to residents living with HIV/AIDS in an 82-unit apartment building, Jarvis, on July 2, 1996. Fife House’s mission was expanded accordingly: to provide supportive housing and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS.

A third residence, Gladstone, was opened on November 1, 1996 with the unique mission of being the first supportive housing program in North America to serve the needs of women living with HIV/AIDS.

A growing awareness of the acute housing / homelessness crisis in Toronto led Fife House to take action on three fronts over the years.

  • First, Fife House converted one residence – Hastings – into a Transitional Housing Program on April 1, 2000. This program allows us to solve people’s acute housing needs while working to find longer-term solutions.
  • Second, Fife House began the Homeless Outreach Program on April 1, 2000. This program assists homeless people to access housing and shelter options and to link them with medical and health supports.
  • Third, Fife House secured a grant to develop a feasibility assessment for a transitional supportive housing program for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Today Fife House provides 80% of the supportive housing and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS in Toronto. The Fife House model of service delivery now spans the full spectrum of housing options:

  • an apartment building (Jarvis), with support services available if required;
  • two residential programs (Denison and Sherbourne);
  • a rent subsidy program for people with substance use issues;
  • a support program for those aging with HIV with cognitive and complex care issues;
  • the Transitional Housing Program (Sherbourne); and
  • the Homeless Outreach Program.

As many people live longer because of new drug therapies, we’re working to ensure they can live as independently as possible and concentrate on maintaining and improving their health. People living with HIV/AIDS should not have to worry about where they’ll sleep tonight, next week or next month.

Growth in Volunteers and Staff

Volunteers have always been essential to Fife House. In its early years, the work of Fife House was carried out primarily by a group of committed volunteers. To this day almost 300 volunteers play an active and crucial role, donating 15,000 hours of their time, to provide support services, assist with special events, and participate in the governing of Fife House.

To provide high-quality support services in our growing roster of programs, we have steadily hired more and more talented and committed staff. Fife House now employs about 60 staff individuals. Many of the staff who provide front-line support services have training in social work or related areas.

Growth in Awareness Raising

Fife House has always been committed to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS in general and about the importance of basic necessities like housing for people living with HIV/AIDS. It’s easier to focus on your health when you’re not worried about getting and keeping a roof over your head. To do so, Fife House has used special events to raise our awareness.

For ten years Fife House presented the annual Christmas Tea, an event spear-headed by Paul King. To mark the ten-year anniversary of the event, Fife House presented the Gladiola Gala: An Evening with Dame Edna at the Pantages Theatre on November 15, 2000. This event brought together both long-term supporters of the Christmas Tea and new supporters keen to contribute to Fife House.

For ten years Fife House also joined in partnership with the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) to organize the annual Red Ribbon Campaign. The red ribbon and the cans with the red ribbon logo became an easily recognizable reminder about HIV/AIDS in the days leading up to World AIDS Day on December 1 each year.

Today, Fife House has three Signature Events each year.

  • Each spring A Taste For Life provides the opportunity to dine out at select restaurants who will donate the funds equivalent to 20% of your restaurant bill to Fife House;
  • Performer’s For Life, a fundraising campaign involving theatres across Toronto in the fall, which also includes the “cast party” SPOTLIGHT! benefit.