John Frank's House

John Frank's House was a homeless shelter for young men established by Holy Trinity Church in Toronto in 1938. (6) John Frank’s House was created by the reverend of Holy Trinity Church, John Frank, and was first opened at Holy Trinity Parish Hall. (7) As word of John Frank’s House and its philanthropic deeds spread around Toronto, the Red Cross reached out to John Frank to donate a house for the shelter in Toronto. (8) On Christmas Eve, 1938, around 100 young men moved into John Frank’s House thanks to the donations of kind Torontonians and organisations such as the Red Cross and Holy Trinity Church. (9) John Frank’s House was created because the Federal, Provincial, and Municipal governments all refused to deal with the homelessness problem during the Great Depression and insisted that the problem was a personal matter to be solved and not a nationwide issue. (10) Many solicitous Torontonians such as John Frank, and journalist, Judith Robinson, could not sit back and watch thousands of young men become jobless and homeless and not receive any governmental assistance. Therefore John Frank’s House was created and such high amounts of support were given to it as an alternative solution to the homelessness issue in Toronto. (11) The mission of John Frank’s House was not just to serve as a typical homeless shelter by providing men with food and a place to sleep, but also as a place where men could become educated and learn skills to get jobs. Around 32% of the men at John Frank’s House never received an education past grade 4 and a few of them were illiterate or did not speak English. (12) The organisers at John Frank’s House realised that to help homeless men get stable jobs and remain off the streets, they must educate them and give them the opportunity to learn career skills. Listed below are documents from Judith Robinson’s fonds that detail various educational and vocational classes that the men could take at John Frank’s House.

Card Room Schedule

Card Room Schedule

This document contains the class schedule in the card room at John Frank’s House. Notably, there are a variety of classes for the men to choose from — English, public speaking, French, art, glee club, Spanish guitar, and string ensemble. These activities range from more practical, traditionally educational subjects such as English and French to more fun, extracurricular activities such as glee club and art. The document shows that these classes run every Monday to Saturday from 10:30 to 9:30. Such a large, accessible amount of diverse classes available to the men indicates that John Frank’s House exhausted their efforts to provide education and pleasurable activities to benefit homeless men.


This document contains the general schedule for the house’s main lounge, garage craft shop, upstairs, and basement craft room. The activities scheduled in the document include —  current events discussions run by an academic, woodworking, pottery, modelling, first aid, woodcarving, weaving, and basketry. The document shows that the activities are available from Monday to Saturday, except for the current events discussions which are run only on Wednesdays and the first aid, woodcarving, weaving, and basketry which do not detail which days they are available on. Such a wide range of activities and various days available for the men to do them on exhibits that John Frank’s House not only cared to provide the men with academic abilities like in the Card Room Schedule document, but also with hobby skills.

Outside Activities

This document contains information about activities and classes outside of John Frank’s House. The external activities and classes available to the men include — journalism (notably, taught by Judith Robinson), typing, vocational classes at the Workers Educational Association (W.E.A), gym and pool access at the Y.M.C.A, vocational night school classes such as auto mechanics, and industrial training. The amount of external classes and activities advertised as available to the men, most of which were for learning job skills, reveals how workers at John Frank’s House made sure not to just feed and provide shelter to the men, but tried their best to ensure that the men would be able to access educational and vocational classes to gain employment.

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