The Kitchener-Waterloo Out of the Cold program has lost a second shelter site for the upcoming winter as organizers at St. John's Lutheran Church said they could no longer participate.
The church, located at Willow and Erb streets in Waterloo, has been with Out of the Cold since 1999. It offered food and overnight shelter to roughly 85 guests every Thursday between November and April.
'I can't put my 120 volunteers at risk.' - Margaret Anne Tannasee, coordinator at St. Johns Lutheran
However, the local director at St. John's Lutheran, Margaret Anne Tannassee, says there has been a dramatic increase in safety risks to staff.
"We're seeing more substance abuse and mental illness, and we're just not trained to deal with these issues anymore," said Tannassee. "I can't put my 120 volunteers at risk. I can't do that in good consciousness."
Tannassee says she has been with the program for the last 15 years.
Lynn Randall, the director of social policy and planning at the Region of Waterloo, says the region has been in discussions with Out of the Cold to help the organization as it finds new sites to replace St. John's Lutheran and Kitchener's Ray of Hope, which announced its departure from the program last winter.
"Between the coordinator and regional staff, we will help people know what's available, we can assist with transportation and we can help find a place to stay and ultimately housing," said Randall.
Out of the Cold says nine sites remain in the program, and are planning to open again on November 1. The program runs from November to the end of March, with food and shelter provided by several churches and community centres.