A Brief History of Place of Refuge
In early 1999 a sense of need for providing a recovery house in South Vancouver came to the pastor of Sherbrooke Mennonite Church (SMC), Garry Janzen. This was as a result of building relationships with two men who were coming to SMC, struggling with addictions, and living in a place that gave no encouragement towards recovery. The concept of the Place of Refuge was first presented to the Sherbrooke congregation on June 9th, 1999. There were many questions, but encouragement was given to the SMC mission committee to continue to explore this idea. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC BC) was contracted to do a feasibility study, which resulted in choosing to enter the recovery work at the transitional stage.
On November 22nd, 2001, a proposal was approved by SMC, which included: forming a society, a commitment from SMC members to get involved, raising funds, developing a partnership with at least another three congregations, and partnering with Hope for Freedom Society (HFFS) to provide the program. Much work was done in building these partnerships, and in fundraising with the five partner congregations.
The house was purchased by one of the POR board members in the Spring of 2007. After extensive renovations, approval processes, many volunteer work hours and donations in kind, the house officially opened on August 1st, 2009. The POR Society paid rent until the end of August 2011, when the society was able to secure a mortgage and purchase the house.
Because it is a beautiful home and well taken care of, Place of Refuge has always been a very desirable place for men in the stage of recovery where they are transitioning back into society. Then in March of 2012, when Neil Huard (Executive Director) of Hope for Freedom Society hired Jeff Borden as the new house manager, the value of being in POR was significantly increased. On October 1st, 2013 the POR Society took over the program from HFFS, and became Jeff's employer, changing his title to Program Director. POR is now an independent transitional housing program, and is developing relationships with many community based recovery programs and ministries as sources of future clients.