Paddy Bowen photoPaddy is the Executive Director for Mission Services in Hamilton, a charity on a mission to end poverty and create safe places to learn, heal and grow.  We talk about her career that brought her to her current role, why she decided to make the move to Hamilton, and some of her favourite parts of the city.

Transcript below

Interview Links

Mission Services

Restaurant / Cafe

Earth to Table Bread Bar
The Bar
Brown Dog
Connaught Fish & Chips


Pippa & Prue
The Mustard Seed


Bryan Adam’s Concert

Natural Feature

Gage Park



BRIAN: Welcome everyone to the Discover #Hamont Podcast. I’m sitting here with Paddy Bowen, Executive Director of Mission Services here in Hamilton. Welcome to the show.


PADDY: Excellent.


BRIAN: Thank you. So why don’t we start with a little bit about who you are and your role here.


PADDY: I’m the Executive Director. I’ve been here since the middle of August, I was hired August 18th. Spent the eight years previous to that running a very small grass-roots, faith-based charity in Toronto called Saint Felix Center. And before that I’ve had a full career in the charity world including nine years as the President of Volunteer Canada, which was a big national organization and five years as Executive Director of the National Organization for Home Care. And then started my career as baby counselor working with new immigrants and kids at risk and developmental handicapped folks. Then Middle Manager then Senior Manager. But pretty a pretty classic charity-wonk career.


BRIAN: Thanks. Excellent. So you’ve been in a bunch of different roles. What brought you to Mission Services here in Hamilton?


PADDY: The Board of Directors. They chose me from a slate of candidates. I saw the ad, and I wasn’t actually planning on leaving my job in Toronto, but was intrigued by the work of Mission Services. It’s a combination of challenging, important work but also very meaningful in a sort of faith and morality frame. And that combination absolutely resonated with me. I threw my hat into the ring, and before I knew it, I was standing in the ring alone.


BRIAN: That’s excellent. So maybe for those who don’t know all that Mission Services does and all that the organization is responsible for, maybe just a bit about what the organization is all about?


PADDY: And bearing in mind there are lots of people who know more about this than I do having only been there since August. But it started 60 years ago as a mission for men, pretty simple, out of the basis of faith of an individual man who sold his farm and moved to Toronto and opened up a mission for sailors and others who were on the streets. And it grew from there.


Today, Mission Services is a multisite agency that serves the most marginalized people in Hamilton. So there is a shelter for around 70 men which is at the corner of James and Barton. 60 of those are shelter bed for emergency overnight and 20 are for longer-term stay. There’s a women’s shelter for women fleeing abuse, and there are programs for their children as well. And then over at Wentworth, which is where we are now, there is a food bank that provides food for 900 families a month. We have a drop-in for women, so women who are in the sex trade, women who are living on the street, women who are just lonely and need somewhere to go, there’s a drop-in here.


And then there’s a full range of addictions programming at Mission Services. So individual, group counseling, residential support for people who are living toward or achieving sobriety.


BRIAN: Excellent. And how is it all run? Is it primarily on donations or– ?


PADDY: It’s about a 50/50 split. We’re very fortunate. We have funding from the city of Hamilton for the men’s shelter, from the province of Ontario for the women’s shelter, a little bit of money from the city for the food bank. And then from the Ministry of Health, the local integrated health network covers our local addictions programming. So that covers, those funds cover about three of the six million dollars. And the rest comes from unbelievable generosity from the people of Hamilton.


BRIAN: And you are looking for both money, volunteerism, food?


PADDY: Money, volunteers, food, warm socks, razors, meat. We always need meat. If you have a gift, whether it’s a material thing or an organic thing or you have time, we will take that gift and make sure it’s used to help another person.


BRIAN: That’s excellent. We’ll make sure to put links in the show notes so people know how to get in touch.


PADDY: Wonderful.


BRIAN: So you are new to Hamilton?


PADDY: I am.


BRIAN: So where are you from originally?


PADDY: Born and bred in Ottawa. Then I lived in Toronto for eight years. I lived in Toronto for two stints in my life, but of late, about eight years ago, moved to Toronto and worked there and came to Hamilton. So I figure if I keep this up, I’ll be in Vancouver when I’m 70.


BRIAN: Haha. You just keep moving, propagating west?


PADDY: Moving west.


BRIAN: That’s excellent. Good. So it was more of the particular position that brought you– ?


PADDY: It was, but I actually knew Hamilton. I actually worked here for about six months in my 20’s at the Amity, and I love Hamilton. I loved it then, and I love it now. So when I saw the job ad, and as I said, I threw my hat into the ring because of the job primarily, but I knew I wasn’t going to commute. I would move to Hamilton.


And I had done a fair amount of reading about what’s happening in Hamilton now, the sort-of emergence of an art scene, the development of the waterfront, the value that there is in the housing market. And there’s something about a smaller community. I was out at lunch recently. I’ve been here about eight months, and I was out at lunch at Acclimation, and I saw three people I know. I’m working the room like a good politician should. That would just never happen in the great, anonymous morass that is Toronto. So Hamilton I find a very appealing community.


BRIAN: Well we’re happy to have you.


PADDY: Thank you.


BRIAN: So I know you haven’t been here super long, but we sort-of end with a lightning round, some of your favorite things about the city. So one of those in favorite restaurant. I know you mentioned one, but I don’t know if Acclamation is your favorite.


PADDY: No. I mean, I like Acclamation. I’ve discovered I’m a foodie, I’ve discovered a few favorite restaurants. I very much like the Bread Bar that’s on Locke. It’s very good. Impossible to get a table–




PADDY: And very, very noisy. But great food. I very much like the Bar on Locke which is very cozy and has some really good vegetarian dishes.


BRIAN: Are you vegetarian?


PADDY: No. But often as a default, I’ll have a vegetarian meal because I find it’s very flavorful. I’m not that fond of a big hunk of meat. Unless it was George Clooney (laughter). And I have discovered the homemade, right-before-your-eyes apple fritters at the Brown Dog. So that’s a wonderful treat. Fantastic chicken sandwiches at Charred. Outstanding cheese and sundries tomato muffins at Mulberry.


BRIAN: I’ve never tried them actually.


PADDY: Just really, really good. I’ve had two meals at Radius, which is a treat. And I’ve just moved into a condo around the corner from Gage Park (8:53), and I’ve been told the fish and chips at Connaught are a treat waiting for me.


BRIAN: Excellent.


PADDY: Yes. I am testing a lot of the great food of Hamilton. And I have yet to find the best sushi bar or the best Chinese restaurant. Maybe people can send me a note at Mission Services and tell me what they recommend.


BRIAN: Absolutely. Well I guess we touched on it when you mentioned Brown Dog, favorite cafe. Are there other ones that you–?


PADDY: Well Mulberry also, I think. I’m not a person who so much does the coffee house scene. So for me it’s more about what’s the snack going to be. And I drink tea. It’s harder to wreck a cup of tea than a cup of coffee.


BRIAN: That’s very true. Excellent. So another one would be favorite local shop.


PADDY: There is a shop that I have not gone into yet but which I have been eyeing beside the Bread Bar. It’s a ladies dress shop that looks really, really good. And another, I don’t know if it would be considered a shop, I have been into and very impressed by Mustard Seed, the co-op food shop. They have some wonderful things there. My daughter-in-law is gluten-free and vegan, so it’s wonderful that Hamilton offers that.


BRIAN: Absolutely. And favorite event, I don’t know if you’ve been to see any.


PADDY: Well I went to Brian Adams, which was just outstanding, and of course, a great venue. I got parking on the street before, and it took me five minutes to drive home after.


BRIAN: That’s perfect.


PADDY: All of these things unheard of in the Big Smoke. And of course, Mission Serives participated in Super Crawl and some of the Art Crawls, and that’s a wonderful event.


BRIAN: So what’s the participation in that?


PADDY: So for Super Crawl we set up a booth. We give out free apples and as much information as you’re willing to hear. It’s at the corner or James and Barton, which is about as far as people come walking. One of our goals for Art Crawls and Super Crawl is to put on some– not just provide information, but to put on some of the art of guys that live in the shelter. And we’re moving toward that. Long & McQuaid has volunteered to donate some musical instruments. We hope to get more. And we are always looking for art supplies. Many of the men who live in the shelters, though they are homeless and many of them have addictions, they have tremendous talents. And artistic expression is so powerful as a way to healing. So what better thing to do than to have an audience for that. And Super Crawl and Art Crawl are perfectly situated for that.


BRIAN: Excellent. Perfect. Last but not least, favorite natural feature.


PADDY: Well it’s a toss up between the waterfront, which I walk endlessly, and Gage Park. I love Gage Park; it’s a gem in the city. I’ve also found and look forward to finding more in the spring, a lovely trail that took me to Dundas Peak and past a couple of waterfalls. So my project for the spring is to find lots and lots of good hiking for me and my old English sheepdog, Bella.


BRIAN: Wonderful. Well I think there’s, what, a hundred plus waterfalls?


PADDY: Apparently. So I need to find all the trails that see them. That will be my goal. It’ll be the equivalent to notches on my bedpost, waterfalls on my wanderings.


BRIAN: That’s perfect. Well thank you so much. We’re happy to have you as Executive Director of Mission Services. Thank you for all that you do for the residents of Hamilton.


PADDY: Thank you, and thank you to everybody that’s listening to this who give who are inclined to give, and we couldn’t be more grateful.


BRIAN: Thanks.


PADDY: You’re welcome.