Emergency shelter named after priest

The front of a building.
St. Simon’s Clubbe House, named after the Rev. Robert Clubbe, is located at 556 Sherbourne St. and is being used as a temporary emergency shelter in Toronto.
 on April 1, 2021
Michael Hudson

Cleric helped homeless

A new temporary emergency shelter for men in downtown Toronto has been named after an Anglican priest.

St. Simon’s Clubbe House, located at 556 Sherbourne St., is named after the Rev. Robert Clubbe, a former incumbent of St. Peter and St. Simon the Apostle, Bloor Street who spent many years caring for homeless people in the city.

Mr. Clubbe, who is now retired, was instrumental in starting St. Simon’s Shelter, a homeless shelter for men that has operated at St. Peter and St. Simon’s since the early 2000s. He was the founding chair of the board of directors and remains on the board.

“If Fr. Robert hadn’t been here, there would be no St. Simon’s Shelter,” says Bob Duff, executive director of the shelter. “He and a core group at the church worked with the parish to gently shepherd it through and we’ve never looked back.”

St. Peter and St. Simon’s opened the city’s first Out of the Cold shelter in 1990. The program, which provided emergency overnight accommodation for homeless men, was operated seasonally and was staffed by volunteers.

With financial support from the City of Toronto and approval from the church, the shelter, renamed St. Simon’s Shelter, commenced full-time, year-round operations. Since then, it has provided accommodation for about 7,000 individuals and has served 2.1 million meals. It provides a range of services, including counselling and health care.

The shelter can accommodate up to 66 men, but due to COVID-19 and the need for physical distancing, that number has been reduced to 18. As an emergency measure, the city recently leased the former Hotel Isabella at 556 Sherbourne St., just a short walk from the church, to provide more accommodation. The building has 36 separate rooms.

Mr. Duff says the new emergency shelter is named after the Rev. Robert Clubbe “for his thousands of hours of service. He is a remarkable man who has done so much for people in this part of the city over the years. We are very grateful for his leadership and dedication.”

Mr. Clubbe says he is honoured to have the emergency shelter named after him. “It’s quite unexpected and really wonderful.” He described St. Simon’s Shelter as “phenomenal” and praised the staff and volunteers for their efforts over the years.

“Many of the men say it is the best home they’ve ever had,” he says. “From Day 1, we’ve always treated people with respect and tried to provide a safe and secure home.”

The Rev. Canon Geoffrey Sangwine, the current incumbent of St. Peter and St. Simon’s, says the church intends to continue its relationship with St. Simon’s Shelter, “offering pastoral care and to be a place where they can gather for their festive celebrations such as the annual Christmas dinner.”


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