Over 125 years, the programs offered by Montreal’s Welcome Hall Mission have changed, but the goal has remained the same – being so successful, they put themselves out of business.

“Hopefully, we’ll do such a good job that we’ll lose clients and we’re happy to lose clients,” said the mission’s CEO and executive director Sam Watts.

Over the past century and a quarter, the mission has grown from a soup kitchen to a multifaceted organization that includes an emergency shelter for 250 men each night and food bank that feeds 2,500 per week.

There are now seven locations across Montreal. According to Watts, the clientele has changed in recent years, with many low-income immigrants and refugees using their services.

“We learned they had been in Canada for one week and there were two kids who looked scared,” he said of one family. “Our volunteers jumped in and tried to engage the kids, get some smiles going and the people left happy.”

There are still new programs being introduced. One helps pregnant women find housing, support groups and basic items like baby clothes. Since launching six years ago, they’ve helped over 500 women.

Intervention worker Sabrina Sadeg said programs like this act as a lifeline.

“(One woman) came to see us recently, just to thank us, because for that one-and-a-half years, it was difficult to settle down and prepare for her child,” she said. “She was thankful to have us help her through that process.”

Charles Rochon is just one of the thousands of people whose life was changed by the Welcome Hall Mission. He said 12 years ago, he was homeless. He wandered into the mission on a whim and ended up becoming a volunteer.

“Everything changed because Welcome Hall Mission gave me a chance to change,” he said. “I know they change every day for someone.”