Faith groups backbone of Out of the Cold

  • December 5, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - Eighteen Toronto churches and synagogues are now open for meals and temporary shelter as part of the annual Out of the Cold program.

At St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on McCaul Street in downtown Toronto, Fr. Jon Hansen said there were 180 guests for dinner and 70 overnight guests, primarily men, on its first day, Nov. 23. The Out of the Cold program at the parish runs on Sundays from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. until April 5.

Hansen, the parish’s Out of the Cold program director, said given the difficult economic times, there could be more people making use of the program this year.

“With people losing their jobs, you will find people on the streets,” he said, adding that some people “are just one paycheque away” from being homeless.

“I don’t think Out of the Cold is the answer to homelessness in the city but it’s an important ministry for our parish,” he said. “Being close to the poor is an essential element of that. It’s a gift to our parishioners.”

The interfaith program, which offers homeless people a hot dinner, breakfast and shelter for the evening, began in 1987 after Sr. Susan Moran and St. Michael’s College School students befriended a homeless man near the school. His death motivated Moran and the students to talk about how to alleviate homelessness. Moran soon began connecting with different faith groups in Toronto, leading to the birth of the Out of the Cold program.

Seventeen of the 20 Out of the Cold sites are centrally managed by Dixon Hall, a service agency in Toronto, which was awarded a City of Toronto contract to operate the program in 2003. Some of the resources provided by Dixon Hall include nurses, evening and overnight support workers and van transportation for guests.

Besides St. Patrick’s (Sundays, 141 McCaul St.), two other Catholic parishes are involved. St. Brigid’s in the Coxwell and Danforth area runs Mondays and St. Michael’s Cathedral (66 Bond St.) will operate on Fridays.

For a complete schedule of Out of the Cold programs, see

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