Who we are
Alliston Out of the Cold provides safe, respectful and welcoming overnight accommodation and meals to the homeless from November to April; facilitating connection to further services, resources and community.
We will be open seven nights a week from November through mid-April. Alliston Out of the Cold provides accommodation and meals to people experiencing homelessness in our community. This upcoming winter more than 1,000 volunteers will donate their time to prepare, cook and serve dinner and breakfast to our guests every day and to manage our home’s operations. We have a permanent location – 41 Paris Street, Alliston.
From the Community Coordinator
The Out of the Cold program originated in Toronto in response to the 1986 death of a homeless man. The late Sister Susan Moran, Father John Murphy, and Rev. Canon John Erb, with the help of St. Michael’s High School, made arrangements to provide for a location, food and volunteers for the homeless. A small storefront on St. Clair Ave. was opened on January 15, 1987. From this humble beginning the Out of the Cold program spread throughout Toronto and into many other cities across Canada.
Here in the Alliston area, homelessness is sadly on the rise. It is not as visible, but it is here and we feel it is time to address this need. I am an Addictions and Community Service Worker at The Well in Alliston. The Well was opened in August 2013 as a non-profit café on the lower level and offering one unit of transitional housing and other community services such as mental health help, addictions counseling and recovery groups, youth mentorship and benevolence out of the upstairs level. The Well is the outreach of a local church called Anchor Point Church that meets at the Circle Theatre and it is a concrete way to serve the community.
In the past four years of outreach in Alliston, we began noticing a rise in requests for housing help. There is a huge lack of affordable housing options in the area and the waitlist for subsidized housing is 4-7 years long. There is one shelter for abused women which does amazing and sadly needed work in our community, but if a person is facing homelessness and is not an abused woman there are no local options. In the summer people experiencing homelessness will often sleep rough. We have known many people who have set up a tent in a backyard or treed area in town. Youth often couch surf and sadly this regularly ends in being taken advantaged of or victimized. The closest option for shelter in the winter months is Barrie, Newmarket or Toronto. Most people from this area do not want to be shipped off to an urban centre and often the urban shelters are at capacity.
In the fall of 2016, it seemed that I was receiving requests for assistance every other day for several weeks as the weather got cold. We only have one unit of transitional housing and it is always full. The rental situation is competitive and expensive. We were trying to help a 17 year old couple who had been staying in a tent for several weeks as they felt it was safer and more stable to stay there than in their homes. It had snowed a couple times at this point and they were cold and tired. They had dropped out of school and were struggling to keep their jobs. The best we could do for them is buy them warmer sleeping bags, feed them and help advocate for them to find somewhere to rent (which miraculously did happen eventually!). This was the push over the edge for me. This is not ok and it is time to address this need.
Anchor Point owns a building on the corner of Paris and Wellington St. that was once used for church services but is rarely used now. I approached the leadership who were in 100% agreement to use the building for this purpose if we could pull it together. SCATEH (Simcoe County Alliance To End Homelessness) has adopted to support this effort as well as various churches and community groups. Volunteers are coming forward and we have set an opening date for November 1, 2017.
The community support thus far has been amazing! Please check out our sponsorship page as it develops to get a glimpse of how our small but mighty town can pull together with compassion to help people who are struggling move forward. No wonder people want to stay – let’s empower them to do just that with community support.