(Photo: 1st Mission building in 1892, where T.B. Macaulay’s Bible Class from Calvary Church started their work at 247 St. Antoine street)
It is around 4 pm in Montreal. There’s a large crowd of people standing in front of Welcome Hall Mission’s shelter on Saint-Antoine Street. Some of them are old, others are young, some look weary, some are dishevelled but they all are staring at one door, waiting for it to open, as if it is their ticket to escape their present misery. Some of them look too sick to be on the streets; others are nervously twitching. Their appearance is heart wrenching and passers-by avoid them shaking their heads, pretending they are invisible. You see, this image is bad for tourism; it makes any city look unprofessional, like it can’t handle its poor. This vision is just a stone’s throw from another world of well-groomed business people sitting in a downtown café, enjoying a pleasant bistro lunch while discussing their latest deals. This scene hasn’t changed much since 1892!
The story of Welcome Hall Mission is the story of men and women who devoted themselves and their lives to helping society’s considered outcasts. These people donated time, money, worked lowly jobs at the mission at unlimited personal sacrifice. It’s the story of Thomas Basset Macaulay, the third president of the Sun Life Insurance company who gave of himself to better his community and founded the Mission in 1892. He sought to relieve the suffering of the poverty-stricken men he saw in the streets around Central Station in the early 20th century. He started a drop in center, a community soup kitchen which became a refuge for the homeless. It’s the story of J.D Fraser, a man who fell from high places because of alcoholism, was saved at Welcome Hall Mission and went on to become its superintendent. It’s the story of “Papa” Kass, the beaming chaplain who after surviving the Armenian genocide was still able to greet the most unlikeable people that came through the doors, put his arms around them, hug them, make them feel like they were brothers he had known for years and counsel them. Because the call on his life was greater than position, at the age of 60 he went on to clean floors, toilets and doing other menial tasks at Welcome Hall Mission after having managed 2 bookstores for the Bible Society.
(Photo: 2nd home of Welcome Hall Mission in 1908 at 1017 St. Antoine street)
The Mission hasn’t changed its values and principles. We loved and served Christ Jesus then; we love and serve Christ Jesus now. Everything we do is done with excellence unto The Lord. Welcome Hall Mission has today grown to much more than a shelter, although still a major part here at the Mission. We offer a vast array of free services such as a food bank serving families in need, a program that helps mothers and their babies, a dental clinic, children and youth services. We have a treatment center for men struggling with addictions and much more. Today Welcome Hall Mission has more than a 130 full-time employees and several hundred volunteers who work in four different buildings and sectors of the City of Montreal.
We look at all the resolve and the sacrifices our predecessors had, that made Welcome Hall Mission into what it is today. We believe we are a beacon for this city and its people and we have only one mandate, one message and one ministry for anyone who walks through our doors: showing God’s love to those who are most in need!