3 min

Fife House gets new ED

New housing complex, capital campaign among challenges in coming year

Credit: Rob Salerno

The Fife House board of directors announced Jul 4 that it had named homelessness activist and social worker Keith Hambly as its new executive director. Hambly will assume the position on Mon, Aug 20.

Hambly was formerly the director of housing and shelter services at the Fred Victor Centre, an advocacy agency for people experiencing homelessness. He replaces Ruthann Tucker, who resigned in March in order to relocate to British Columbia after six years at Fife House.

Hambly says he is excited to work with Fife House, which next year will celebrate its 20th year of providing housing support to people living with HIV and AIDS in Toronto.

“[Fife House] is an agency that’s vital in this city, and housing is a vital need for people living with AIDS,” says Hambly.

Fife House opened its first permanent residence for people living with HIV/AIDS in 1990. Since then it has expanded to three multi-occupancy houses and an apartment building, with further expansion on the way. It also operates the Homeless Outreach Program which connects homeless people living with HIV/AIDS with shelter and medical services, and provides training programs for substance abuse workers. In the last six years Fife House’s clientele has more than doubled to 425 people, including 300 clients through the Homeless Outreach Program.

Over the next year Fife will launch a new residential apartment building on Sherbourne St in partnership with WoodGreen Community Services. The 112 apartments in the building will incorporate both housing for seniors and supportive housing for people and families living with AIDS. Eleven units will be dedicated to transitional housing.

Fife House spokesperson Nick Rodrigue hopes the partnership will allow Fife and WoodGreen to provide better service to each of their client groups.

“We definitely know that there’s a huge need for both seniors and people living with AIDS to have supportive housing,” he says. “WoodGreen has an excellent reputation for running community services, so it made sense for us to partner together. It also stems some of the disclosure issues, since people going into the building won’t be identified as who’s going in for what.”

To Hambly, the innovative Sherbourne project is a natural extension of Fife House’s work to integrate clients into the community.

“Fife is probably one of the few housing providers that works with people with HIV as well as families, and I think that’s unique in North America and Toronto,” says Rodrigue. “It’s a holistic approach. It’s not just the housing. It’s the services, including the social interaction and integrating people who may have been isolated before. Supporting people in daily living skills, meal programs, those are vitally important for health and well-being.”

Fife’s success stories reflect the organization’s holistic approach to helping people living with HIV.

One client arrived in Canada in dire straits as a refugee from Nigeria. While living in Fife’s Gladstone residence, staff helped her through the immigration process and eventually helped her bring her children to Canada as well. The family was reunited for the first time since the woman fled an abusive home 15 years ago. They will soon move into the Sherbourne complex.

“The Gladstone House supported me, connected me and inspired me to have hope for the future,” the woman is quoted as saying in a Fife House testimonial. “Fife House is in my skin — it is part of me. I can never repay or forget the staff of Fife House for their help.”

Later this year Fife will launch its first capital campaign, with a goal of raising $2 million toward furnishing the Sherbourne complex.

“The capital campaign in essence is to take this building and make it into a home,” says Rodrigue. “There will be a healing garden on the rooftop, a neighbourhood kitchen space, community program space, all that is covered by the capital campaign.”

For his part, Hambly says he is excited by the challenges his new post will bring.

“Fife is at a point right now where it’s opening new housing come next spring, it’s looking at it’s own direction and expanding that direction in serving people with AIDS,” he says. “I’d like to expand the relationship with other funding providers and housing providers.”