Celebrating 20 Years of Sherbourne Health
From compassion-centered services to award-winning programming, there’s plenty for Sherbourne Health to be proud of.
In its first two years, Sherbourne’s acquired the Rotary Club’s Health Bus, became the province’s go-to place for 2SLGBTQ health care, offered weekly medical services inside an east-end shelter, and hired a team of service providers.
Sherbourne has evolved to become a safe haven for communities not adequately served by other health services, providing a range of supports for 2SLGBTQ communities, people experiencing homelessness, and newcomers to Canada.
To mark 20 years of serving Toronto’s downtown east neighbourhoods, we’re highlighting major highlights and milestones from Sherbourne’s legacy:
The Life Of The Party
Sherbourne’s 20th anniversary was rung in with an unforgettable block party on Tuesday, June 21 2022. Our outdoor celebration featured tasty eats from the St. James Town Catering Collective, Health Bus tours, and fun times with our communities.
Building A Healing Environment
In its architectural design stages, Sherbourne Health consulted with service users to ensure the repurposed grounds were inclusive. As a result, architects traded its brutalist exterior for views of Allen Gardens; an open foyer that invited all; and gender-neutral washrooms on every floor.
Sherbourne’s renovations since have adapted to growing service usage over the years, using human-focused design that ensures our spaces are accessible and welcoming. Upgrades to the fifth and sixth floors, as well as a transformation of our first floor’s retail cafe into a social enterprise, are expected in the near future.
Many Hands Make Light Work
The stunning mosaic to the right of Sherbourne Health’s entrance emerged from the efforts of 300 community members and their desire for public artwork that visualized the diverse qualities of inclusive urban health. Created in partnership with Red Dress Productions, “Many Hands Make Light Work” took 2000 volunteer hours to complete and remains a point of pride for Sherbourne Health.
Nourishing Our Communities
Since Sherbourne Health started offering primary care, we’ve also addressed food insecurity. Our “Eating Right When Money Is Tight” nutritionist-led workshop series in 2003 was only the beginning of our enduring commitment to eliminating local hunger and promoting healthy eating. We’ve since held cooking programs for newcomers and people with chronic conditions, as well as Food and Friends, a virtual weekly food education program.
Two years ago, we created the Food for Good initiative (FFG) in response to food insecurity from our neighborhoods throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, our initiative has helped distribute thousands of healthy food options to those in need, ensures all service users can access a meal or snack, and will be the driving force behind plans for a renovated cafe, upgraded community kitchen, and new rooftop garden.
Sherbourne Health was named one of 15 organizations across the country to receive a Market Greens grant from Community Food Centres Canada. Starting in late 2022, Sherbourne will run a year-round, community-based market offering fresh, affordable produce to community members living on low incomes at 240 Wellesley St. E.
A Perfect Score
Sherbourne Health earned an impressive 100 per cent rating from our latest Accreditation Canada survey. This peer-reviewed accreditation process is a quality measure that highlights us as an outstanding Canadian health organization.
Leadership in 2SLGBTQ Health
Sherbourne is known nationally for its reputation as an community health pillar and provider for 2SLGBTQ communities.
Since Rainbow Health Ontario (RHO) was started 14 years ago by several volunteers, this Sherbourne program has proven its leadership in 2SLGBTQ health. In its first year, RHO was fundamental to reforms in provincial healthcare, which decentralized where trans Ontarians can access health care. As well, RHO took part in government talks that contributed to the historic Bill C-16 in becoming law.
As the only government-funded 2SLGBTQ health program in Canada, RHO improves experiences in health care for 2SLGBTQ people by providing educational opportunities for service providers and advocating for system change.
Harm Reduction Saves Lives
Substance users are a part of our communities and deserve welcoming, non-judgemental services that promote their wellbeing. Sherbourne is a strong advocate for public health policies that enable critical services, such as supervised consumption sites and prevention programs.
For years, Sherbourne provided free naloxone kits to anyone who inquired with our nurses and medical secretaries during operational hours. In response to the urgency of Toronto’s opioid overdose epidemic, we now offer on-demand training and stock free harm reduction supplies in a cabinet outside our entrance that can be accessed 24/7. People can also access these supplies, as well as friendly staff support, from our Health Bus and STASH, our drop-in space for people who use drugs.
Rolling Up Our Sleeves
The COVID-19 pandemic called on Sherbourne Health to step up as public health leaders and advocates in the city’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. We distributed 46,000 vaccine doses over the course of a year, through our Wellesley Community Centre Vaccine Clinic and other community clinics.
The Wellesley clinic partnered with Unity Health to get residents of Downtown East Toronto neighborhoods vaccinated, and was greatly bolstered by The Corner’s community ambassadors, who dedicated more than 500 hours to sharing information about COVID-19 including testing and vaccinations, as well as available resources for recovery and more.
Making the Honour Roll
The exemplary efforts of our hard-working staff have not gone unnoticed by the health community at large. Sherbourne Health was awarded Family Practice of the Year by the Ontario College of Family Physicians in 2017. Our agile COVID-19 response was singled out in 2021, with a 2021 Bright Lights Award by the Association of Family Health Teams Ontario.
Health Care, Right Around The Corner
An innovative community hub on the ground floor of 200 Wellesley St. E., St. James Town Community Corner presents Sherbourne Health with valuable, on-the-ground collaborations that disrupt medical hesitancy and wellness barriers in the neighbourhood, particularly those faced by newcomers.
After a six-alarm fire at 200 Wellesley St. E. in 2010, some of the displaced residents slipped through the cracks of Toronto’s social service system. Following this, community consultations led to the Corner’s creation.
The Corner run countless community services in St. James Town, and through its Health Access St. James Town Team (HASJT), Sherbourne Health provides primary care to people who may be underserved. In 2022, we launched an on-site primary care clinic and hired a Nurse Practitioner. Soon after opening its doors, high demand from service users who appreciated its accessibility motivated the HASJT clinic to go from part-time to full-time hours.
Urban Health Hits The Road
The Rotary Club Health Bus brings our health services to the streets of Toronto six days a week, making regular stops at shelters, drop-ins, agencies, and throughout our surrounding neighbourhoods. This clinic on wheels was the first of its kind in Canada when it launched in 1996 and following the launch of Sherbourne Health, joined the organization’s fleet of programs. At first a converted RV ran by the Wellesley Central Hospital before its closure, three generations of the Health Bus program have rolled out. Its latest upgrade in 2017 gave it state-of-the-art equipment and made the clinic wheelchair accessible.
Passengers who come aboard can access judgment-free services tailored to their needs, no appointment required, from an interdisciplinary team. People experiencing homelessness, sex workers, and encampment residents are able to access counselling, primary care and harm reduction support, as well as water bottles and warm socks for extreme weather relief.
Mental Health is Health
When Sherbourne’s first counselors were hired two decades ago, they started with full caseloads–over the years, various cycles of the organization have offered walk-in counseling and group supports.
The importance of maintaining and treating mental health among underserved communities has continued to be a priority for Sherbourne. The Mental Health team at Sherbourne provides trauma-informed mental health programming and psychotherapy that complement our existing services for our clients. Service users can access timely, short-term one-on-one counseling from Sherbourne Health through our Brief Therapy Services program.
Award-winning 2SLGBTQ Youth Programming
Young people forge a sense of real belonging in Supporting Our Youth, our community development program for 2SLGBTQ youth under 29. SOY’s bevy of free programs and events include mentorship opportunities, wellness supports, and internal housing for youth experiencing homelessness. Among SOY’s accolades include winning the prestigious Bonham Centre Award in 2020, Best Youth Organization in Toronto by Now Magazine for multiple years, and the Arts for Youth prize from Toronto Arts Foundation Mayor’s Arts Awards.
SOY’s Black Queer Youth started as a partnership program in 2003; Gender Journeys, one of our flagship trans and non-binary health programs, emerged shortly after and hosted the city’s first annual trans week awareness celebrations.
Its three focused groups for Black, trans, and newcomer youth nourish the bonds between participants. These groups, adapted to continue offering services whenever possible through the pandemic, are now back in-person, provide opportunities to learn new skills while making friends for life.
BOLD. KIND. REAL. OPEN. WE CARE.
These five values are at the heart of our community-driven philosophy. Sherbourne’s vision – healthy people, healthy communities – and these values were renewed by our 2018 strategic planning process, which involved an extensive community and staff consultion. They guide our mission to be a dynamic provider of integrated health services, community programs and capacity-building initiatives that enable people and diverse communities to achieve wellness.
First Name Basis
A name change, a new logo, and a fresh brand strategy debuted in 2018, decisions that grew from extensive consultations on the organization’s future directions. As a nod to what we accomplish beyond our physical site, Sherbourne Health Centre changed its name to Sherbourne Health in 2018.
Prospective visitors can peruse Sherbourne’s website for a variety of text resources and service-related information, including a Toronto 101 package for newcomers, our Mosaic newsletters, and details about fundraising.
For medical literature readers, Sherbourne’s impact in the field of community health research is long-reaching, due largely to contributions from our staff, research participants, and practicum students. One standout resource is Sherbourne Health’s Gender-Affirming Primary Care Guidelines, clinical resource that’s created and distributed by Rainbow Health Ontario.
Authored by Dr. Amy Bourns, a Sherbourne Health family physician, this comprehensive document is widely relied on by service providers and trans people navigating healthcare systems in Ontario and across Canada. Check out Dr. Bourns’ latest contribution to 2SLGBTQ care with Caring for LGBTQ2S People, released in June 2022.
Our Acute Respite Care (ARC) program provides a place to heal for people experiencing homelessness, trans people, and people who otherwise need a safe, stable place to recover from surgery, injury, and acute conditions. The first of its kind in Canada, this short-term stay program entails round-the-clock medical care from an interdisciplinary team. A 2016 expansion allowed ARC to add additional beds for trans people who need to recuperate from gender-affirming surgery.
Our client engagement and safety workers prioritize the security of our staff and services members, while keeping in mind anti-oppressive principles and the needs of our priority populations. They greet all who enter our doors with professionalism and the CESW team is trained to safely de-escalate and compassionately intervene when necessary.
The LGBT2SQ Parenting and Family Resources Program, formerly known as the LGBTQ Parenting Network, gives 2SLGBTQ parents much-needed support with programming, research, and advocacy. The program joined activists in pushing for changes to Ontario legislation in 2016, to give queer parents had equal rights. Making the familiar pandemic pivot to primarily offering programming online, workshops and courses continue to be highly attended.
Groundbreaking Trans Health Research
Significant research on trans Canadians was non-existent before the TransPULSE project began Ontario-wide surveys in the early to mid-2000s. Initiated by Sherbourne Health’s LGBT primary care program, the project’s insights have helped policymakers understand the systemic barriers trans people face; its statistics are an asset for researchers and media outlets across North America. The project’s mantle is carried by Trans PULSE Canada, the only national census on trans people.