File:519 Toronto.jpg
The 519 Church St. Community Centre (“The 519”, pronounced "five nineteen" or "five one nine") is a non-profit community centre located at 519 Church St. in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The 519 serves both its local neighbourhood and the broader gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities in the Toronto area.

Mission StatementEdit

The Mission Statement of the Commnnity Center reads:

"The 519 is a meeting place and focal point for its diverse downtown communities. Within a supportive environment, it responds to the needs of the local neighbourhood and the broader Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTTQ) communities by supplying resources and opportunities to foster self-determination, civic engagement and community participation." [1]

History of The 519Edit

In 1972 the City of Toronto purchased the building at 519 Church Street and the pieces of land surrounding it to create The 519 Church Street Community Centre and Cawthra Square Park.

The 519 was the first community centre to be funded with a structure that ensures community control of programming. The City of Toronto owns the building and funds the administrative and maintenance expenses. The community, through its volunteer Board of Management, is responsible for programs, fundraising and personnel.

The 519 opened its doors in 1975. At that time many programs were developed out of the expressed needs of people in the community:

Homeless people began dropping in on Sunday afternoons, a day when many other programs were closed. Coffee, cards and checkers were the first activities in a program that has become an essential service for homeless people. Over the years, as poverty has increased for so many people, the Sunday Drop-in has developed into a meal and clothing program, with referrals, a book cart, movies and other activities. Since 1996, they have been opened for longer hours on Sundays in the winter months, in order to offer two meals. They are also open on statutory holidays in winter. The Family Resource Centre, another essential program in the 1990s, began when a group of mothers in the neighborhood formed a play group in the 1970s. The program now offers support, referrals and workshops to families with children aged 0–6, and the drop-in program has been augmented since 1994 by The 519's involvement in Growing Up Healthy Downtown.

Gays and lesbians living in The 519's catchment area have been among the most active and visible members and users of the community centre. Most groups are run by volunteers, and the group members appreciate the safe environment, the accessibility, and The 519's role within the community.

12-step programs, other mutual support groups, and recreational programs such as Bridge, Checkers and Go have thrived in The 519's environment of accessible space, a welcoming attitude towards diversity, helpful and knowledgeable staff, and a strong volunteer contingent.

In the 1970s, many other programs were developed. Seniors formed one of the first social clubs at The 519. Developmentally handicapped adults have had a dance on Friday Nights since the late 70's. Healthy Kids Summer Day Camp offers families with school-aged children high quality and affordable fun when school’s out.

In more recent years, our program development has focused on urgent issues such as poverty, violence, and advocacy. Our Thursday Legal Advice Clinic has been joined by a Wills Clinic for people who are HIV+. An Income Tax Clinic assists low income people every year. Our Anti-Violence Program supports Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexuals and Transgendered people who are victims of hate-motivated violence, or who are victims of same-sex spousal abuse. More and more gay and lesbian support groups within cultural communities have come forward, and made The 519 their home. Short term Community Counselling is available to anyone, in response to the overwhelming need in the neighbourhood. Most recently, we’ve developed the Trans Programmes, services unique in Canada, which focus on support, advocacy and drop-in programmes for the transgendered and transsexual communities, particularly those who are street active and living in poverty.

In 2001, as use of the building reached capacity, The 519 undertook a process to raise money for a 3-storey addition to be built onto the existing structure.[1] The 519's Capital Campaign, chaired by Salah Bachir, successfully raised money from the local community to fund the New Wing.[2]

In June 2006, the still-unfinished New Wing of The 519 was officially opened. Over the next year it would provide space . Unfortunately in August 2007, the New Wing was closed for the final renovations to complete the space.

In November 2007, the New Wing will be finished and will house the entire staff and services of The 519 while the Old Wing - the original 519 building - will undergo renovations.[3]

Meeting spaceEdit

The 519 provides free meeting space for community member volunteers to develop their own programs. In 2003, The 519 housed 75 volunteer-run programs (in areas of community services, education, recreation, and self-help), and welcomed 140 user groups (in areas of community fundraising, off-site recreation, professional associations and unions, social activists, social service organizations and tenants’ organizations). The 519 estimates in its 2003 annual report that approximately 26,000 individuals visited the centre over 160,000 times.

519 Programs & ServicesEdit

in 2005, The 519 provided services to 25,734 individuals and hosted 4291 meetings, conferences, groups, and special events. People come to The 519 not only to receive and but also to provide social services. In 2005, over 34,000 volunteer hours kept The 519 running, including 22,743 hours by Programme Volunteers and 11,248 hours by Community Volunteers. Volunteers are central to the existence of programs at The 519.
People choose to come to The 519 for a multitude of reasons, such as a particular social service need, recreational interest, or desire to give back to the community. The 519 fulfills a public function by providing space to community groups that may not otherwise have access to appropriate space.

To fulfill its mission, The 519 directly runs and co-sponsors a variety of social service programs, including:
AIDS Memorial[4]
Anti-Violence Programme[5]
Anti-Poverty & Homelessness Programmes[6]
Children's Programmes[7]
Community Living[8]
Legal Services [2]
LGBT Newcomers Programme[11]
Older Adults Programmes[12]
Queer Parenting Programmes[13] Rainbow Book
Trans Programmes[14]

The 519 has also inspired similar organisations in other communities such as the GLBTTQ Community Centre of Ottawa.


The City of Toronto owns the building and funds administrative and maintenance expenses.[citation needed] The 519 is a member agency of the United Way of Greater Toronto and has received funding from the Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal Foundation. Community members elect a volunteer board of management that has responsibilities for setting the Centre’s mission, vision, governance and strategic directions, and for overseeing the programs, finances and personnel. The current chair of the board of directors is television personality Mathieu Chantelois; city councillor Kyle Rae is also an ex officio member of the board.


  1. Template:PDFlink
  2. Template:PDFlink
  3. 519 Expansion and Renovation Project
  4. The AIDS Memorial
  5. 519 Programmes: Anti-Violence Programme
  6. 519 Programmes: Homeless Services Index
  7. 519 Programmes: Children's Programmes
  8. 519 Programmes: Community Living
  9. 519 Programmes: Community Counselling
  10. 519 Programmes: Courses
  11. Among Friends Project
  12. 519 Programmes: Older Adults
  13. 519 Programmes: Queer Parenting Programme
  14. 519 Programmes:

External linksEdit

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