Those in need of refuge from the elements will once again be able to visit Out of the Cold’s shelter.
After months of searching, the non-profit seasonal shelter program has found a new space downtown, at the Canadian Mental Health Association building, at 857 Seymour St.
“It was a long time coming,” Out of the Cold executive director Lena Cimmarrusti told KTW.
Cimmarrusti, new to the role of executive director, was tasked with finding a new location for the program that offers a bed and hot meal twice weekly during the coldest months of the year.
The program previously ran out of St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, downtown at Nicola Street and Fourth Avenue.
The city’s social development supervisor, Natalie Serl, helped secure the new location.
The CMHA will continue to use the space during the day and Out of the Cold will occupy it during Sunday and Wednesday evenings, similarly to how it has run in the past.
If it can find sufficient staff and volunteers, the program could be expanded in the future, Cimmarrusti said.
The challenge in securing a new location was the need for a kitchen, good bathroom access, a wide open space and a location where neighbours wouldn’t be too concerned about having a shelter next door.
Asked what makes the CMHA site a good location, Cimmarrusti said it’s a nice bright open space with the kitchen and bathrooms needed.
In addition, she said, it is “very welcoming.”
Prior to the first snowfall of the winter season, the city said it was short 50 shelter spaces, due in part to the absence of Out of the Cold, which has historically provided about 30 mattresses.
It remains unclear how many spaces will be offered by Out of the Cold in its new location, as Cimmarrusti said the organization is awaiting final approvals from the city.
Cimmarrusti said she hopes a milder start to the winter has helped to mitigate impacts on the city’s marginalized as the program has searched or a new home.
The program typically opens in November.
“I felt terrible when we had this cold snap,” she said.
The goal is to open on Sunday, Jan. 5, with the shelter open on Sundays and Wednesday through the end of March.
As Out of the Cold moves into its new space at the Canadian Mental Health Association building on Seymour Street, Cimmarrusti said the non-profit is also hiring on-call staff and seeking volunteers to help make the program successful.
A volunteer information session will be held at St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, at 360 Nicola St., on Saturday, Dec. 28, at 1 p.m.
Needed are volunteers who can register guests, serve and cook breakfast, supervise, clean up and socialize with clientele.
Cimmarrusti said training will be provided and experience is not needed. The most important quality, she said, is empathy.
To register for the information session, visit Out of the Cold’s Facebook page.