The House That Joy Built: A Spotlight on Community Support

For over 30 years, Dr. Heyding and Dr. Pritchard have been dedicating their time to vulnerable women at LOFT’s 416 Community Support for Women program.

LOFT’s 416 Community Support for Women (“The 416”), is a drop-in centre providing daily meals, activities, mental health and addictions case management, and health and wellness programs.

In 1987, founder Joy Reid contacted Dr. Robert Heyding with a request. One of her clients no longer felt able to visit Dr. Heyding’s clinic in Riverdale, and Dr. Heyding agreed to Joy’s request for a house call to The 416. He has been seeing clients at the drop-in centre ever since.

“With homeless women,” says Dr. Heyding, “the initial barrier to medical care is the reluctance they have to be seen by a physician. The women may be too frightened to go to a hospital clinic. They may forget about the appointment, may not have transportation that day, or they might feel self-conscious and uncomfortable in a clinical setting.”

Demands for his help increased, and in 1989 Dr. Heyding recruited his colleague, Dr. Jane Pritchard, to host a medical clinic at our location. Dr. Heyding and Dr. Pritchard continue to host this clinic on a bi-weekly basis. 

”Follow-up can be challenging,” Dr. Heyding explains. “At The 416, we attempt to perform as many investigations on-site as possible. We take our own blood samples, for example, rather than referring patients to nearby labs to which they might not go.” Through the current challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have also increased their phone and virtual connections with our clients.

One of the reasons for their long-term commitment is a firm belief in the program’s effectiveness. The 416, with its community-based model of care, is an important resource for at-risk women. Dr. Heyding sees the work as a way to honour Joy Reid’s legacy.

Patience, compassion and empathy are key elements to LOFT’s model of care, and both doctors work to foster positive relationships with our clients. Stability is crucial to those experiencing mental health challenges, addiction, and homelessness. Seeing the same physicians week after week helps to build trust and eliminate barriers, allowing LOFT clients to receive the care they need. 

Dr. Heyding and Dr. Pritchard’s long-term commitment is vital to the LOFT community, and we are extremely grateful to them. The relationships they have built over the past decades have ensured our clients’ continued well-being. Their time commitment and dedication to LOFT’s mission, as well as their generous donor support, assist some of the most vulnerable in our community.