Out of the Cold is a volunteer-run organization working to provide the homeless and precariously-housed with shelter and community support.
Located in St. Matthew’s Church on Barrington Street, they assist the 200-225 individuals who access the shelter every year.
The shelter opens their doors on December 1st and runs until April 30th, open from 8:30PM to 8:00AM every day.
Out of the Cold depends on a large network of volunteers who help to keep the shelter running.
Approximately 150 volunteers work with the shelter each year, many of whom are responsible for front line duties such as setting up the space, meeting people at the door, intake, helping people find dry and warm clothes, and helping with meals.
The shelter is currently looking for volunteers for the upcoming winter, in particular those who can commit to overnight shifts. Other behind-the-scenes volunteers help with laundry runs, food donations, grocery shopping and miscellaneous tasks.
Those who don’t have time to volunteer are welcome to check the list of needed supplies and donate goods or food on a one-time bases, and help spread the word.
“We’re kind of filling a gap that is that is left by the city. The city is in the process of coming up with a severe weather policy for this year. There will be a more deliberate and coordinated response to those who are vulnerable to the cold. This is still in the process of being finalized, but there will be more infrastructure this year,” says volunteer coordinator, Jacqueline Vincent.
Out of the Cold takes a low-barrier approach to the work that they do, trying to make accessing the shelter as easy as possible. Individuals can access the shelter if they are under the influence of drugs, though using on the site is not allowed. They welcome people of all genders, those who are trans or queer, and people who have pets.
Although the shelter gets quite busy during the winter, they make an effort to never turn people away. Even when all the beds are full, people are always welcome to drop in, have a meal and get some support in finding another place to stay for the night. Unless there is a major issue with a guest, the doors are open to anyone.
“Every year we open the shelter in hopes that we will be redundant, that we won’t have to exist anymore,” says Vincent.
A lot of the cause for homelessness in Halifax is a lack of support. There is little affordable housing or adequate mental health care. Many people experience food insecurity and rely on income assistance or disability, as well as those who live around or below the poverty live.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about homelessness; most notably that those who are homeless and street-involved are lazy. People who are homeless don’t experience homelessness for just one reason, and every individual is affected differently. Thinking of people who are homeless as all the same and needing the same solution isn’t really accurate. Homelessness is a very complex issue,” says Vincent.