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Matthew Pearce announces retirement and passes reins to James Hughes

30 July 2020

Today, our President and CEO Matthew Pearce announced his plans to retire in September 2020 after nearly 13 years at the helm of the Mission, one of Canada’s foremost non-profit organizations on the frontline of homelessness.

Vision, Leadership and Innovation

“Since 2008, Matthew has led the Old Brewery Mission through a period of significant growth and phenomenal transformation that have inspired other organizations to adopt the Mission’s approaches to end chronic homelessness. We are all deeply grateful to Matthew for his vision, leadership, and innovative achievements and he will be missed,” said the Chair of our Board, Eric Maldoff. “Matthew, who was recently awarded Canada’s Meritorious Service Cross, leaves an impressive legacy not only on the Old Brewery Mission, but on the homeless-serving sector as a whole. He will be passing the reins over to James Hughes, who was the Mission’s Director General from 2004 until 2008,” he added.

During Matthew’s tenure, the Mission has undergone fundamental changes that include:

  • Establishing new supportive housing models and programs adapted to the needs of specific populations, e.g. Sentinels program aimed at homeless veterans—leading to increased access to permanent, affordable housing options for people experiencing homelessness.
  • Investing in the creation of a Research Department in partnership with McGill University—the first and only one of its kind in Canada—to gain greater knowledge of the root causes of homelessness, collect and share data and champion evidenced-based decision-making.
  • Opening a triage and diversion centre for first-time shelter arrivals to shorten their homelessness experience and ensure they are adequately housed and reintegrated into the community.
  • Transforming the emergency shelter into a 24/7 resource centre, allowing residents to remain onsite and fully connected to counselling staff and services that aim to help them permanently get off the street.
  • Creating multi-sector partnerships with other major homeless organizations in Montreal, the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), the City of Montreal, and the Service de police de Montréal—to name a few—with the goal of improving outcomes for homeless men and women through collaborative, coordinated action. Discussions held many years ago ultimately led to the opening of such services as the winter overflow unit at the old Royal-Victoria Hospital.
  • Developing innovative mental health programs in partnership with the public sector, for which Matthew received the 2017 Ella Amir Award for Innovations in Mental Health.

Steering Toward the End of Homelessness

For Matthew, the decision to retire was a bittersweet one. “I will leave the Old Brewery Mission filled with immense appreciation to have worked with an exceptional group of committed and talented professionals, both within the Mission’s walls and throughout the homeless-serving sector in Canada, on a common goal to prevent and end chronic homelessness in our lifetime. This experience has been the highlight of my career.  I’ll remember with much gratitude and admiration my time with my colleagues, our generous donors as well as the many people who have come to our doors,” he said.

James Hughes, who edited the book Beyond Shelters: Solutions to Homelessness in Canada from the Front Lines, as well as other publications centered on poverty, social inclusion and Indigenous affairs, says he is honoured to have been chosen to take the helm. “I’ve been so impressed with how the Old Brewery Mission has evolved over the last decade as a key player at the forefront of ending chronic homelessness in Canada. We will continue to challenge the status quo and work with others to find sustainable solutions to this social problem,” said James. ”I look forward to hitting the ground running and working with our teams, our donors and partners to build a more inclusive society where everyone has a place to call home.”

James Hughes speaking at the “Beyond Shelters: Solutions to Homelessness in Canada from the Front Lines” book launch

Eric Maldoff adds that the choice to offer James the opportunity to succeed Matthew and lead the Mission’s next phase of evolution was a natural one. “Under his watch as Director General, James planted the seeds for the Mission’s current focus on reducing homelessness permanently through long-term solutions. He has an impeccable reputation for championing social inclusion and helping to reduce poverty and end chronic homelessness in Canada. We are excited to see what this next phase will bring.”


As our leadership changes, the journey to ending homelessness continues. We look forward to you joining us in it!


>> Read the press release here.

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