KW Out of the Cold loses third location for winter

The Kitchener-Waterloo Out of the Cold program lost a third shelter site for the upcoming winter, as Trinity United Church decided last week not to run the program this year.
Trinity United Church in downtown Kitchener has announced it will not be providing overnight shelter as part of the Kitchener-Waterloo Out of the Cold program, which runs from November to April. (Jane van Koeverden/CBC)

The Kitchener-Waterloo Out of the Cold program lost a third shelter site for the upcoming winter, as Trinity United Church has decided not to run the program this year.

Reverend Tiina Côté, pastor of Trinity United Church, said the church would be focusing its efforts on Waterloo Region's housing strategy, which was not in place when the program first began.

"The Homelessness to Housing strategy talks about supportive housing, assisted housing, and so forth," said Côté. "So those will be some of the areas that we'll begin to explore and figure out how we can take a role in helping those things develop over the next 15 years."

The downtown Kitchener church has been with the program since it began in 1999.  It offered food and overnight shelter to guests every Monday night between November and April.

Out of the Cold now has eight shelter sites left. The organization is currently seeking new sites for Tuesday and Thursday nights.

Last week, St. John's Lutheran Church in Waterloo announced it would not be participating in the program this year, citing increased safety concerns for church volunteers over the past two years.

"We're seeing more substance abuse and mental illness, and we're just not trained to deal with these issues anymore," said Margaret-Anne Tannassee, former co-ordinator of Out of the Cold at St. John's Lutheran Church. "I can't put my 120 volunteers at risk."

The organization Ray of Hope, announced last winter it would not be offering the program this year, due to building renovations needed to keep up with the demand for services.