A temporary haven: Out of the Cold homeless shelter

During the winter, Halifax homeless shelters can become overcrowded. That’s where Out of the Cold comes in.

“Out of the Cold started in the response of the closure of another emergency winter shelter,” says Jacqueline Vincent, a volunteer and community programs coordinator at the shelter.

“People in the community saw a need and opened Out of the Cold, and it has been running every winter since then.”

Out of the Cold, located at St. Matthew’s United Church on Barrington Street, opened during the winter of 2008.

“It’s a grassroots organization”, says Vincent. “The community runs it and it always has.”

It has become a temporary haven for homeless people when other shelters in the area are full.

“We have been getting a lot of drop-ins,” says Vincent, as many as 30 people at a time. “That drops off pretty significantly over the night, as people go to where ever they need to go.”

Out of the Cold says that a lot of their guests needs supplies to help them through the winter season.

“Some people come in and they say, ‘I need a pair of boots’ or they come and say, ‘I want to get connected to this organization that does housing,’ so we can facilitate that depending on what people say they need.”

Occasionally, even Out of the Cold runs out of space since they can only accommodate around 30 people.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” says Vincent. “In previous seasons we would have all of our beds filled but we would still allow people to drop in. We make every effort to offer people whatever we can.”

If people looking for shelter have a friend or family member that they can stay with, and if they are in another part of the city, Vincent says the organization will help get them there.

Vincent had volunteered at Out of the Cold, and because she loved the organization, became a full-time staff member during the winter.

“I think a lot of people who get involved really respect the work that this organization does,” says Vincent.

The organization gets good feedback from its guests, says Vincent.

“It really just helps me keep going and helps everyone kind of keep going”, says Vincent.

“People really appreciate this space and choose to come here and express a lot of positive things and some gratitude towards the shelter.”

Jerica Matthews, who volunteers for Out of the Cold, says she enjoys her time here.

“I really enjoy spending my free time volunteering for Out of the Cold,” says Matthews. “It just makes me feel like I am doing some good and I love volunteering.”

On their website, there are some guests that made anonymous feedback.

“You made my short time being homeless less frantic and stressful. It opened my eyes to a new world and a handful of wonderful people,” says the comment on the Out of the Cold website.

Out of the Cold is open from Dec. 1 to April 30.