New chapter opens for
Luke 15 House
By Laureen McMahon
A new executive director is now at the helm of Luke 15 House
which, for over a decade, has offered prison parolees a safe and
welcoming home environment to begin the difficult process of
rebuilding their lives and making a safe transition back into
Laureen McMahon /
The B.C. Catholic
Clients at Luke 15 House enjoy the fall sunshine with the
outreach's new executive director, Nigel Vincent (second
from right). Most men stay about four months in the Surrey
home, which provides counselling programs and vocational
help to get back on track along with Bible studies and
Nigel Vincent, who was hired last June to run the home, which today
shelters 22 ex-cons, told The B.C. Catholic that although the
outreach has undergone many upheavals in recent years, its
foundational Christian philosophy, the belief that only God can heal
the wounds that have led people down the pathway of destruction
through crime and addiction, has never changed.
Inspired by Christ's words in Luke's Gospel, "I was in prison and
you visited Me," the first Luke 15 House opened in Burnaby with a
volunteer staff. Their dedication over many years helped them
survive tough times, including a fire, which led to a search for a
new location, and then another forced move when Burnaby City Council
ruled that the new facility contravened residential bylaws.
Two years ago, through a generous legacy from the estate of the late
Father Gordon McKinnon, whose prison ministry in the Vancouver
Archdiocese made a tremendous difference in the lives of countless
inmates, Luke 15 House obtained a mortgage to purchase a vacated
retirement home near Scott Road in Surrey, a spacious and
well-located site while has proved ideal, said Vincent.
However, in the brief four months he has occupied his new position,
he has come to realize that a number of pressing problems will have
to be solved if Luke 15 House is to continue into the future.
More people, Vincent said, are needed right away to serve on the
Luke 15 board of directors. Individuals willing to bring their
experience in law, business, and the health fields and a
compassionate heart for a ministry to parolees will be warmly
welcomed. Volunteers are also needed to join the teams which help
with the daily running of the home, including driving duties,
accompanying the men to appointments, answering phones, etc.
Overriding everything, however, is the urgent need for more
financial help to cover Luke 15's fixed expenses such as the
mortgage and costs of providing services for residents who need
addictions counselling and other programs to heal from personal
Although Vincent is a newcomer to Luke 15 House, he is no stranger
to working with people caught up in the vicious cycles of substance
Before moving to Canada from India in 2005 he was associated for a
dozen years with St. Vincent de Paul in Bombay, where he worked with
street kids during his off-hours from the corporate world. After
visiting family in Victoria, the chartered accountant and former
event-planning organizer decided to immigrate. He also came to the
conclusion that to get a good job in the Canadian business sector he
should earn a Canadian business degree.
While enrolled in business school at the University of Victoria he
became increasingly drawn to working with people with addictions,
and it began to occur to him that perhaps this was really where God
"I was raised in a devout Catholic family and was introduced to a
wonderful spiritual adviser who helped me through a discernment
process. While earning a Masters of Business degree certainly would
be useful whatever field I determined on, I began to be open to
different possibilities, and spent some time on weekends helping the
executive director at Covenant House in Vancouver with their policy
and service restructuring."
Vincent's brother-in-law who served on the Luke 15 House board of
directors introduced him to the ministry, and he began to be
increasingly drawn to the unique ministry to parolees after he
graduated with an MBA from UVIC.
"Talking to the men and hearing their heart-rending stories was so
affecting. Soon I was coming over every weekend to volunteer," he
said. "As my involvement increased, I was asked to take on an
advisory role, which has now grown into being appointed executive
director. It is exhausting work, but I am so thrilled with many of
the changes which have already taken place. At each point God has
shown us how to proceed."
Vincent's days and many of his evenings are filled with applying for
grants and speaking to groups he hopes will get on board to help
Luke 15 House. He also has focussed on building relationships with
the appeal courts and welfare officers. and has a roster of 60
lawyers with whom he is frequently in contact.
"I never fax, I phone, and they now know I mean what I say. When
someone is going to be released we go there personally to pick him
up," said Vincent. "We are very hands-on with all our clients, which
is essential to keeping our clients feeling secure and safe."
As a privately-funded outreach, Luke 15 House, he said, is always
looking for financial donations.
"While the bulk of our support comes from Catholic parishes and
individuals we also get a lot of help from other Christian
denominations, and of course our client base is made up of people of
all faiths or those who have no faith at all, although everyone here
is required to attend Bible study.
"Our ministry is based on teaching the Christian way of life, but my
fervent hope is that the men will see how our staff and volunteers
live their lives in a Christian way, and that our example will make
the deepest impression."
The Luke 15 programs now in place, said Vincent, offer counselling
on stress and anger management, relationships, child abuse, values,
and problem-solving, which cover the bulk of the issues that prevent
parolees from building a normal and productive life.
"There have been many positive changes. I have been able to develop
volunteer teams who look after different aspects of the running of
the house. We have run a pilot project with students who have
training in addictions from Rhodes Wellness College in Vancouver
which has been very successful. Many of the men who come here have
no families left to go back to, and so we focus on helping them move
on with their lives.
"That is why we stress God so much in their recovery. His
unconditional love can really make the difference in their healing.
"We tell them that healing is not only about abstaining from drugs
or alcohol. While that is a wonderful object, helping them peel away
the layers of pain which led to their dysfunction in the first place
is our goal.
"We tell each one of them, `You are God's pride of creation,' even
those who have no concept of God, and we tell them that God is their
source of healing from pain.
"People here have a passion for Luke 15 House. God has provided a
beautiful home that the men who come here really enjoy. I see their
eyes open wide when they realize that they are welcome if they are
willing to take advantage of the opportunity. We are taking care of
homelessness, addiction, and crime. We get calls night and day from
lawyers and judges asking us to take in these men. Without us, I
don't know where else they can go."
More information is available at 604-930-4884 and
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