Released September 15, 2006

  Official opening of the new
Tommy Sexton Centre in St. John's

Today marked the official opening of the new Tommy Sexton Centre. Built at a cost of over $1.4 million, the Tommy Sexton Centre will provide emergency shelter services, transitional and supportive housing, and supports to people living with human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Capital funding for the centre is being made available to the sponsors of the Tommy Sexton Centre, the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, through the Government of Canada’s National Homelessness Initiative ($832,500). Additional funding was provided through the collaborative efforts of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation (NLHC) under the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Affordable Housing Agreement ($450,000) and additional provincial funding of $144,000 from NLHC. In-kind contributions were also provided to the project by the City of St. John’s and by the provincial department of Transportation and Works, who donated the land for the project.

In addition, yearly operating funding will be provided to the centre through the provincial departments of Health and Community Services ($50,000) and Human Resources, Labour and Employment ($70,000).

The centre was officially opened today by Tom Osborne, Minister of Health and Community Services representing the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador; and Bill Downer, executive director of the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador. Deputy Mayor, Dennis O’Keefe, City of St. John’s, shared in the opening on behalf of the city. Sara Sexton, mother of the late actor/musician Tommy Sexton, after whom the centre is named, along with Robyn Pardy, an individual living with HIV/AIDS and long-time community activist, also participated in the ceremony today.

Loyola Hearn, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, was unable to attend the ceremony today but sent along his best wishes on this important addition to the community. "It is very satisfying to see when people come together to undertake worthwhile projects like the Tommy Sexton Centre," said Minister Hearn. "Canada’s new government is pleased to support programs and services that directly help people, especially those who seek shelter and support as a result of very challenging circumstances. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by many individuals, and I wish the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador well in its important work."

"This centre is a true example of what we can accomplish when all levels of government and community come together as partners to address the diverse affordable housing needs of our province. Through my department’s ongoing support of the Tommy Sexton Centre, the services provided to persons directly affected with HIV and AIDS will be enhanced and coordinated, which will make a meaningful difference for these individuals," said Minister Osborne.

Paul Shelley, Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment and Minister responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, said: "We are very proud to be part of a ground-breaking project that will provide assistance to individuals and families at a time in their lives when they are most in need. For those living with HIV/AIDS, it is so important to be in an environment with family, friends and professionals who can be on hand to provide emotional and medical support, and who understand the challenges they face. All these factors contribute greatly to maintaining quality of health, and I know this facility will be an invaluable asset to our community."

John Hickey, Minister of Transportation and Works, added: "Our department is pleased to be a part of this project and a partnership that is focused on finding solutions to community housing needs. It’s a dream come true for many, and will provide much comfort and support for individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS, in our province."

"This project is a very important one for our city and province. It’s another example of people meeting a need in the community. I commend everyone associated with this undertaking," said Deputy Mayor O’Keefe.

"This is an important day for the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Tommy Sexton Centre, will provide a shelter facility with appropriate supports to people living with HIV/AIDS in Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s a real need that will now be addressed," said Bill Downer.

Robyn Pardy said, "On behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS across the province, I would like to congratulate the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador on the successful and important development of the Tommy Sexton Centre. Safe and affordable housing can have such a huge impact on an individual’s health. This project will provide much needed and important housing services to an underserved population."

Sara Sexton, whose son Tommy died of AIDS, said, "I have hoped for and dreamed of this day for many years, and I am so pleased to share in the official opening of the Tommy Sexton Centre. I know Tommy would be very proud and honoured to have his name attached to this new centre. It’s a beautiful setting and on behalf of my family, I want to thank everyone who played a role making this wonderful project and ceremony a reality."

The funding from the National Homelessness Initiative’s Regional Homelessness Fund (RHF) and Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative (SCPI), and CMHC and NLHC in partnership with the province, is specifically being used to develop four self-contained shelter units, and six self-contained accessible and furnished supportive housing units. The centre will be owned and operated by the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, with operating support from the provincial government departments of Human Resources, Labour and Employment and Health and Community Services.

The AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador is a consumer-focused, non-profit organization that provides supportive programs and services aimed at preventing HIV/AIDS and supporting persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. The committee works on a collaborative basis with partners, interested groups and stakeholders to achieve its goals. The Tommy Sexton Centre is named after actor and musician Tommy Sexton, who advocated for those living with HIV/AIDS and who succumbed to his illness on December 13, 1993.

For further information, please contact:

Jenny Bowring
Manager, Corporate Communications
Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation
(709) 724-3055

Lorne Lambert
Regional Manager, Communications
Service Canada
(709) 772-5346

Tansy Mundon
Health and Community Services
(709) 729-1377

Bill Downer
AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador
(709) 579-8656

Dawn Ring
(709) 772-5973

Dave Salter
Transportation and Works
(709) 729-3015