Formerly London Regional AIDS Hospice (LRAH), we were the first hospice designed and built to provide specific care for people with HIV/AIDS in Canada. LRAH sprang from the vision of Betty Anne Thomas and Dr. Iain Mackie in the late 1980s. Their desire to provide a safe, home-like environment for those in the end stages of AIDS and HIV infection has grown into the John Gordon Home today; a place where people living with HIV/AIDS and HCV receive compassionate care and supportive housing that builds on individual strengths to promote wellness and independence.
About John Gordon
John Gordon (1963-1992)
JGH is named for John Gordon, the King's College student and activist who became the first HIV-positive person in Southwestern Ontario to go public with his condition. Despite knowing what his disclosure might cost him, he decided to share his story in hopes of making it easier for those who followed.
"I want to help the person behind me face less discrimination, more understanding. In terms of me needing to tell my story, not to tell it would be such a waste." John Gordon put his name and face to an epidemic so controversial that fear of the public’s reaction forced those with the disease in Southwestern Ontario to remain silent or speak only under a cloak of anonymity.
For three years after discovering he had been in contact with the virus, John did the same. At that point, there were no symptoms but he was worried about losing his job, about friends staying away out of fear. An outspoken member of London’s gay community, John often gave talks on homosexuality but when questions came around about AIDS, fear clouded his spirit of gay liberation. "That would be part of the story I wouldn’t tell. It always bothered me that there was a part I still didn’t feel comfortable sharing."
John's diagnosis of ARC changed things. At a Toronto workshop to help those with ARC, AIDS or positive antibodies to the virus emotionally deal with the problem, some handed John a button that read ‘Silence = Death’.
"I thought, there’s your answer. This is the answer." That revelation led to his decision to share his story and become an even more active voice in the community. In an article that appeared in the London Free Press prior to the opening of John Gordon Home in 1992, Morris Dalla Costa wrote:
"The John Gordon House in London would have pleased the man for whom it is named. Grace Gordon, John’s mother, has a pretty good feeling about what John will be doing Friday. “He’ll probably be dancing,” she said.
There’s little doubt that wherever he may be, he will be celebrating the culmination of a dream he fought so hard to make real, his heart bursting with happiness.
And wherever he is, a part of him will be with his mother and with everyone who steps through the door of the John Gordon House as it officially opens Friday. The purpose of the house is to provide dignity, love and hope for people living with AIDS.
John Gordon knew he might not live long enough to see an AIDS hostel built in London. He died in January after a six-year struggle with the disease, a disease he sought to give a face, a body, a reality by becoming the first person in Southwestern Ontario to openly admit he had AIDS. Until he died, Gordon worked tirelessly as an advocate on social issues. He cared...
“When I first went through the house, it was a very emotional time,” said Grace Gordon. “You could almost feel his presence there. This was his dream. There were some very difficult times, especially when he came out, but he kept telling me, ‘Mom, it’s extremely important that people with AIDS have the chance to die with love and dignity.’ He never gave up on that even though he knew he wouldn’t live to see it.”
“This house was built with love. This is just the kind of place he wanted. It looks like a home and it feels like a home. I feel his joy here.”
About Sam Conti
Sam Conti (1952-1998)
Sam Conti was a founding member of John Gordon Home, starting as treasurer in 1993 and becoming executive director in 1994, a position he held until his death in 1998. But by all accounts the man was much more than the title implies. In tributes written about him in the days following his passing he was called 'gentle man who could move mountains', a 'gifted healer and bridge builder' and 'an average guy with Olympian dreams'.
Sam was a driving force behind the establishment of the John Gordon Home as we know it today. Close friend Betty Anne Thomas, executive director of the ACOL and co-founder of the JGH remembered him as a man committed to making life better for AIDS patients. "Sam saw what needed to be done and simply did it. Sam was not somebody who ever looked for accolades. He quietly and very effectively moved things forward."
He was a leader in convincing the Health Ministry to pay for 24-hour staffing at the home in October 1994 and also convinced Queen’s Park to provide money to build the new home. It was Sam's idea to approach Orchestra London to stage interiors at the new facility before it opened. Hosting this fundraising event for Orchestra London resulted in the John Gordon Home’s many unique decorating and design features.
Sam was much loved by his family, loved ones, friends, colleagues and employees. He was posthumously recognized by the Ontario AIDS Network (OAN) with an appointment to the 2000 Honour Role.