Harvest House Ministries began its operations on December 1, 1979 by three Christian businessmen who had spent time visiting men in jail. They saw a need to provide a Christ-centered home for young men who were struggling with alcohol, drugs, and other social ills associated with that type of lifestyle. The first house was on James Street, in the center of Ottawa, and had a capacity of eight men. The program was moved early in 1980 to a 12-bed residence on Belmont Avenue in Ottawa South, and remained there for two and a half years.
At that time Harvest House Ministries of Ottawa Carleton was incorporated with three members on the Board of Directors. The staff consisted of one member, the Executive Director, and two senior residents assigned to help. No one was paid a salary. The program consisted of Bible studies and occasional one-on-one counseling.
In 1982, Harvest House Ministries purchased the old Rideauview School on River Road between the Airport and Manotick. The rural location was an ideal location to offer treatment to drug addicts. The distance from the city removes a great part of the temptation to return to the street and their former way of life, while providing an atmosphere in which to come to grips with the decisions they must make in order to change. The capacity increased to a 24-bed residence and the Board of Directors grew to ten members.
Over the next three years, the staff grew to three: the Executive Director, the Administrator, and the Superintendent of the school program. At this time, only the Administrator was paid a salary, and worked on a full-time basis. Volunteers are the foundation of this program and continue to be to this day.
December 1985 marked the date of a new initiative, which saw Harvest House open its first re-entry home in Ottawa South. This aftercare program was designed for the men who graduated the one-year program and were in need of affordable housing and a continued support system. This was meant to help the men re-enter into society. There are now five re-entry homes in the Ottawa south area, each having a capacity of six men.
The Sanctuary opened its doors in February of 1995 to meet the growing need for addiction treatment for women. It was a five-bed residence located on River Road where young women came to recover from alcohol and drug abuse. The women lived at the Sanctuary and attended the daytime treatment program at the parent facility, Harvest House Ministries. Due to difficulties in securing funding, the Sanctuary was closed in 1999.
Until the fall of 2000, Harvest House Ministries had in addition to its 24 beds, a rented farmhouse on a property adjacent to the main facility. This house provided 13 beds for men who had shown maturity, responsibility, and were near completion of the one-year program. In total Harvest House provided service to over 55 homeless men suffering from the disease of alcohol and drug addiction.
The staff grew over the 15 years to 20 dedicated employees and volunteers. The composition of the organization relies heavily on volunteer support to provide the necessary services to these individuals.
The program itself became more structured and consisted of Bible studies and a full schedule of small and large group meetings. These include reality testing, relapse prevention and HIV support meetings.
In addition to providing treatment, Harvest House realized that treatment alone would not prepare the residents with the necessary living and working skills to have productive lives in society. The majority of individuals who come to Harvest House are homeless, uneducated and have no life skills. It is the belief of the Harvest House community that individuals in the program need to change their lifestyle through a relationship with Jesus Christ, learn to work hard, and acquire new skills that would enable them to successfully gain employment and have a normal productive life.
In 1992, a portion of the farmhouse property was used to establish a small workshop which was the inception of the skills-training program of Harvest House. Harvest House acquired a few pieces of equipment and made picnic tables, wooden clocks and wooden pens. This proved to be extremely valuable for the self-esteem of the few men who participated in the skills training program.
In the fall of 1996, the Board of Directors at Harvest House agreed to endorse a new initiative that would further enhance the mission of Harvest House. Harvest House was able to obtain a loan and purchased additional woodworking and computer equipment. This workshop provided more individuals opportunities to learn a wide array of skills that included graphic design, computer technology, laminating, printing, pen making, painting and furniture making. Other components of the program included arts and crafts such as stain glass, pad printing, art classes and further skills which included data entry, office administration, bookkeeping and selling skills.
Education and training play an important role in the recovery process; since many of these young men and women have little in the way of living skills. Increasingly this became significant in the transformation process for individuals coming to Harvest House.
In August 2002, Harvest House Ministries moved to 3435 Ramsayville Road, Gloucester, continuing its tradition in a rural setting. The old Ramsayville School was renovated to accommodate twenty-four men. The re-entry homes continued to provide subsidized supportive housing for the men. In addition, Harvest House also addressed the growing need for subsidized housing for the men and/or women who have re-established relationships with their children. The preservation of the family unit through the re-entry homes is vital to the community. Parenting life skills has become a necessity of the program.
March 31, 2005 was the beginning of another challenge for Harvest House. The Board of Directors of Harvest House reached the decision to sever its long-standing relationship with the Ministry of Health because of restrictions the Ministry of Health wanted to impose that would jeopardize our ability to continue providing quality services to the men we serve. Harvest House continues to provide a valuable service to our community and sees over one hundred men come through the doors annually.
What began as a small home for eight men on Belmont Avenue has grown to a professional facility housing, teaching, training and mentoring for over 50 men, including our aftercare program. All of this did not happen overnight, without hard work and overcoming challenges. None of the amazing things that happen at Harvest House everyday could have been achieved without the emotional and financial support of the community.