rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

'Temporary' program to help homeless people still going after 25 years

In January, the Out of the Cold Program marked its 25th anniversary of providing meals and temporary shelter to homeless people.

With the support and guidance of Sister Susan Moran, the program was started in 1987 by the students of St. Michael’s school after they befriended a homeless man who was sleeping in one of the school’s doorways. 

Unfortunately, he died shortly thereafter.

Following the man’s death, the students and Sr. Susan began discussing ways of reducing homelessness.

Sr. Susan then connected with various faith groups across Toronto with the idea that they would organize groups of volunteers at each Church and Synagogue to provide a safe haven for homeless people.

Faith group volunteers would open their doors one day a week from November to March to provide food and shelter to the homeless.

Originally, the program was only supposed to be a temporary, band-aid solution designed to help those in need make it through hard times. Once the economy rebounded, they thought the program would be discontinued.

“The reality has been that the need for accommodation and food has continued for 25 years,” says Beth Baskin, Social Justice Project coordinator, Toronto Southeast Presbytery, United Church of Canada at Tuesday’s monthly homeless memorial vigil outside the Church of the Holy Trinity.

There are now 19 faith groups and over 2,000 volunteers who feed and house 200 people every night from early November to the end of March.

“It’s not the churches’ job to be holding society together in this way. Governments have to find a way to do that structurally rather than simply through the goodness of some volunteers.”

Over the years, Out of the Cold has become an institutionalized part of Toronto. It gets significant funding from the City of Toronto as well as support staff services from Dixon Hall, a multi-service social services agency located in the East Downtown.

And while that makes Baskin angry, it also motivates her to work with others to make sure their voices are heard and changes are made.

“This isn’t sustainable,” she says. “It’s costing us way more to maintain these band-aids than if we could provide permanent solutions.”

Governments typically spend three or four times more on shelter beds, hospital beds or prison cells than it would cost to permanently house and feed homeless people.

Baskin doesn’t event want to think about where Out of the Cold will be 25 years from now if all levels of government don’t come together and make the kinds of changes needed to reduce homelessness.

“It’s scary,” she says. 

“I’m not sure that those people who are in need in 25 years from now would have enough people around to care for them.”

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.