New safety training will be offered to Out of The Cold volunteers
About 100 volunteers with the region's Out of the Cold program, which provides shelter for homeless men during the winter months, will be receiving extra safety training in the fall.
The training announcement comes as Waterloo's St. John's Lutheran Church announced this week that they would no longer be taking part in Out of the Cold because of safety risks.
The temporary shelter program provides a safe place to sleep for the homeless from November to April, and area churches take turns hosting men who need shelter on different nights of the week.
Dennis Watson, is the coordinator for the program on Monday nights at Trinity United Church in Kitchener.
Over the past two years, he says volunteers have had to cope with everything from needles in bathrooms to individuals with extreme mental illnesses.
"Our volunteers aren't trained professionals. They're people with great big hearts, caring, compassionate natures. They're wanted to just help prepare and serve a meal and shelter – provide overnight supervision – to people sleeping," said Watson.
Cathie Stewart-Savage coordinates Friday nights at First United Church in Waterloo, and says says her volunteers have always been trained to recognize dangers, but those dangers have changed over the past two years.
"Before, we talked about Hep B and C, maybe from contact with dirty dishes or something like that, although, I don't think that's an issue, but now it's the needle pricks that we're concerned about. We don't want any of our volunteers stuck with needles," said Stewart-Savage.
Stewart-Savage says new training in September will address dangers associated with intravenous drugs and mental health disorders. About 100 volunteers will get training organized by the Region of Waterloo and will include workshops with Waterloo Regional Police.