Our History

Building on a Rich History

Bellwoods is a pioneer in providing not-for-profit community-based client-directed, non-medical support services and programs for persons with physical disabilities.

Historical Overview


Bellwoods was formerly known as The Adult Cerebral Palsy Institute of Metropolitan Toronto. Under the leadership of Muriel Heyland, Dr. Harold Cranfield and associates, the Institute was founded in 1957 and in 1959 established the first residence for women with cerebral palsy at 718 Kingston Road. The seed for a new residence actually originated in 1948 with the establishment of the Adult Cerebral Palsy Association. Originally started for the purpose of supporting social contact for women with cerebral palsy, this association was to become the nucleus and impetus for the growth and development that occurred over subsequent years.

The Kingston Road residence began as a pilot project in independent living and was a tremendous success that subsequently led to the development of a much larger, more comprehensive facility located at Bellwoods Park House at the corner of Dundas and Shaw Streets in Toronto. The building opened in 1967 with 61 rooms under the slogan – “My own life to lead under my own roof.”

Early 1980s

Following the Year of the Disabled in 1981, many new apartments and programs were opened to provide people with physical disabilities the opportunity to participate freely as members of society.  Bellwoods Park House was transformed in 1983 into an apartment setting with 32 adapted units located at 300 Shaw Street.  Fourteen of these units were designated for a transitional living program.  The Transitional Living Program offered an intensive training program in activities of daily living and life skills, through the use of goal setting, to prepare people with physical disabilities for independent living in the community and provided 24-hour support to clients residing in the building.

A new Co-operative Living Project was established in 1983 for 12 adults with multiple disabilities located at 389 Church Street. This shared living environment provided both physical and emotional support and included three and four-bedroom units with shared bathrooms and kitchens and a community Centre lounge equipped for wheelchair access. Clients were provided with 24-hour support care services which included informal training in basic life skills and activities of daily living.


In May of 1985, Bellwoods began Outreach Services – the first service of its kind in the Toronto area.  This program provides support services to people with physical disabilities living in the community who require one to three hours of service per day, thus making it possible for them to remain in their own homes.  All clients must live in Toronto and be capable of directing their own services. Bellwoods’ capacity generally supports approximately 330 outreach clients.

In June 1989, Bellwoods opened a new supportive housing project, the Mimico Apartment Project located, at 1 Summerhill Road, Toronto.  This integrated apartment project provides access to 24-hour attendant services for 12 people with physical disabilities who have the skills to identify and schedule for their own support service needs. Bellwoods has gained one more apartment in 2012 and now is assigned 13 accessible apartments out of 175 family apartment and town house units on site.


In 1990, the name of the Organization was changed to Bellwoods Centres for Community Living Inc., to reflect the broader client base receiving services.

In October 1996, the Mobile Independent Living Education (MILE) Program was launched.  The MILE Program provides education and transitions support in living more independently in the community for consumers living in their own homes.  These clients may or may not be receiving attendant services.


Bellwoods built a new affordable, accessible, housing project for 31 clients located at 1082 Dundas Street West.  The project received ‘Occupancy’ from the City of Toronto in July 2008 and the clients from 389 Church Street were relocated to this new building located adjacent to Park House. The development phase of this project started in 1994-95, with the focus on the present location set in 2002 and construction started in April 2006. Substantial completion was reached in October 2008.

In 2009, Bellwoods launched the Community Connect (CC) Program, a new transition program located at 300 Shaw Street supportive housing. The program was designed to enable Alternative Level of Care (ALC) patients and long-term care residents to transition successfully from hospital to the community.

In March 2011, Bellwoods partnered with a non-profit housing organization, St Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society and created five (5) accessible, affordable housing spaces in new construction project (180 Sudbury Street), for permanent clients requiring 24/7 access to services.  This program combines supportive housing level of service (24/7 access) in a community service model, transitional and ongoing program support to ensure smooth transition to this site, and permanent housing. In June 2013, the program was expanded with four (4) more individuals with complex care needs referred from hospitals.

In September 2011, Bellwood partnered with the City of Toronto, and a private housing developer, Mahogany Management, to acquire another ten (10) housing spaces in a newly constructed building in the Flemingdon Park area (Deauville Place), with the first clients moving in the end of March 2012.  Deauville Place was developed as a multi partnership financial-service model that represents a new funding delivery model for housing acquisitions without rent-geared-to-income subsidy.  Deauville is including transitional support, 24/7 access to community services and permanent accessible, affordable housing. Referrals of ALC patients are from hospitals.

In 2018 Bellwoods expanded with the following services and programs:
  • 117 clients (supportive housing and attendant outreach) were transferred from Canadian Red Cross (CRC) to Bellwoods in January.
  • Introduction of the Centralized Referral Management (CRM) program. Bellwoods is the lead agency supporting the reintegration units that are testing new models of care for patients transitioning from hospital to the community. Services are time limited and are being provided in partnership with 13 different Health Service Providers (HSP) in the community.