The Gathering Place

The Gathering Place was established in response to the needs of those seeking food in St. John’s.  It was opened in 1994 by the Sisters of Mercy and the Presentation Sisters in a former school building owned by the Sisters of Mercy. 

The Gathering Place, receives widespread support within the community. Service organizations, church groups, foundations, corporations and individuals make financial and in-kind donations towards the operations. Groups come together  as scheduled to prepare and serve breakfast to guests.

The Gathering place, a registered charity and an incorporated entity, is managed by a Board of Directors including the Sisters of Mercy and members from the community at large. The programs and services are offered through over 100 employees and more than 200 active volunteers as well as countless other companies and community groups who volunteer their time regularly. In recent years, programs and services have been added through collaboration with other partners to address the complex needs of guests.

The Gathering Place is a health care centre committed to building community, promoting equality and providing nourishment of body, mind and spirit. It exists to meet the needs of vulnerable people whom society has failed. The programs and services of the Gathering Place are offered primarily to people who are homeless or live in less than desirable housing conditions, who are often unemployed and to people who do not have adequate social supports at this time in their lives.  Many of the guests from various parts of Newfoundland and Labrador have complex issues including physical illness, mental health and addiction, and learning disabilities. The goal of Gathering Place is to foster among guests personal autonomy, self-respect and dignity. Personal growth and interdependence are cultivated through a network of community partnerships.

The Gathering Place

For more than 30 years, The Gathering Place has provided a caring and nurturing environment with services that now include three hot meals served seven days a week. In 2023 an average of over 3000 meals were served each week with a total of 175,000 meals; shelter to over 360 individuals in the last year; treatment for over 1000 dental patients since 2018; coordination of  400 visits each month by case managers. There is: a medical clinic, a dental clinic, a clothing boutique, laundry facilities, showers, arts and crafts room, writing group, a vegetable garden, a music room and community/social spaces (safe, comfortable places to read, listen to music, watch TV, play cards, enjoy bingo and other games). Through a clinical space, primary health care services of a doctor/resident/student, nurse, dentist, dental hygienist, or a social worker to help the guests deal with chronic or mental illness, crisis intervention and more. Counselling in collaboration with community partners provides necessary supports in a non-judgemental, safe space for Guests. Other services include: home support program, designated area for female guests, sewing services, legal clinic, annual flu vaccine clinic, annual income tax clinic, a message centre for guests with no fixed address, advocacy with government and health/social agencies. The centre is accessible with elevator and other aids for people with disabilities to access services.  A warming centre is activated in severe weather or power outage times.

The Gathering Place offers an overnight emergency shelter for 30 Guests every night, offering them a safe and clean place to lay their heads. Social Workers work hard to secure decent housing for the guests.  A 40-bed permanent overnight shelter (O’Callaghan’s Haven), as well as a 55-bed transitional and supportive housing (Mercy House) will open in 2024 in the former Mercy Convent building.

In addition to the employees hundreds of volunteers help deliver critical services. They assist in a wide variety of: kitchen, overnight emergency shelter, social room, sorting room /clothing and household items boutique and hair salon.  A number of Sisters have always been among the Volunteers who provide support for the programs and services.  Many organizations and groups resource the Centre and draw from the resources of the Centre.  In 2020, Paul Davis became the Executive Director and in 2021, Kim Grant became the Assistant Director.


In 1992 both religious congregations as well as churches in the area began to explore the question of how to respond to the needs of the poor in the inner city of St. John’s. Its opening marked the culmination of numerous meetings and discussion between the two congregations with Emmaus House, local parishes (Roman Catholic parishes of the Basilica and St. Patrick’s and Anglican parishes of the Cathedral, St. Thomas’ and St. Michael of All Angels), with individuals and community agencies. Sponsored, staffed, and financed by both congregations, it opened in 1993.  In other parts of the former school building The Gathering Place provided space to community service groups to work on behalf of the underprivileged and at-risk persons and the environment. The Hospitality Centre of The Gathering Place received its first guests in October 1994 and offered services supported through volunteers and donations.

In 2007 the main floor of the Gathering Place underwent renovations and provided for a volunteer room, pantry and closet. In 2010 the Board planned a strategic planning session to determine the way forward with programs and services.

In 2013-14, there was a major financial campaign for the renovation of the entire building.  Renovations allowed for expanded and new programs and services.   Significant financial support was provided by the two Congregations, three levels of government and private donations with the building re-opening in September 2014.  Hospitality and other programs were provided at the Lantern for the Guests and Volunteers of the Gathering Place while awaiting completion of the renovations.

‘A hand rules compassion as a hand rules heaven.’
Artist: Gerald Squires, Ceramic Artwork at the Gathering place

A sculpture was commissioned in gratitude to all who supported the renovation of The Gathering Place. The words on the Gerald Squires’ sculpture of hands reflect gratitude for the community that is at the heart of The Gathering Place: a community in which guests, volunteers, staff, founders, health and housing organizations, corporate and individual donors, builders, media partners and governments all have a place.

The Gathering Place is operated by a Board of Directors which, in the beginning years, consisted of the leadership team members of both congregations. In 1994, The Gathering Place was administered by two co-directors, one from both the Mercy and Presentation Congregations. In 2003 a decision was made that every three years the administration would alternate between the two Congregations. Sisters were co-directors until 2015.  In 2001 the decision was reached that the Board of Directors would consist of three sisters from each of the two congregations and three persons from the larger civic community with the two Co-directors attending all meetings of the Board in a reporting capacity. In 2024 The Gathering Place is governed by a strong Board made up of highly qualified professional men and women with two Sisters of Mercy on the Board.

The consistent and dedicated volunteers are the mainstay of the program. Many other services were added: breakfast program, clothing and household items boutique, foot care, hair care, crafts, art and computer skills. The Gathering Place is open seven days per week.  Services are provided by social workers, human resources, housing, labor and employment personnel, counsellors and others, all advocates on behalf of those made poor by our society.

From 2016 to 2020, a Downtown Collaborative Clinic was operational at The Gathering Place with three family physicians working two days each per week in a program supported by the volunteer nursing program, providing primary health care for the most vulnerable in downtown St. John’s.  In 2024 health and addiction services are offered by a retired physician who come once a week.   A dental suite was furnished with top of the line equipment.

Many organizations and groups resource the Centre and draw from the resources of the Centre.  In 2020, Paul Davis became the Executive Director and in 2021, Kim Grant became the Assistant Director.

In 2021, the sisters vacated the beloved and historic Mercy Convent, Military Road, so that it could be converted into a shelter and affordable housing units. The project enables The Gathering Place to meet the needs of homeless men and women for decent, affordable, and safe shelter while they receive assistance and guidance to find more permanent housing.  The project includes renovation of four levels of the building to provide a transitional housing space and overnight shelter space.  The transitional housing area will be named Mercy House; the shelter area will be named O’Callaghan’s Haven named after Mr. O’Callaghan, a very generous donor to the project. Renovation of the building will be completed in July 2024 with the three levels of Government as the major funders along with other generous donors.