Kitchener-Waterloo Out Of The Cold

Last Update: May 31, 2017


KWOOTC - About Us:



Out of the Cold History

In 1986, the death of George, a homeless man befriended by the students and staff of St. Michael’s High School in Toronto, brought people together to take action. Students and staff at the school, Sister Susan Moran, Father John Murphy and the Reverend Canon John Erb, took necessary steps to arrange a location, food and volunteers. On January 15, 1988 they opened a small storefront on St. Clair Avenue in Toronto.

Without specifically planning so, the first provision of service also revealed the special nature of the service for both the volunteers and guests. Each group grew in humanity by participating in the program; the guest by experiencing from the volunteers a genuine concern; and the volunteers, by learning to earn the respect and appreciation of the guests.

(See OOTC on Wikipedia.)


History in Kitchener-Waterloo

In February of 1999, a two month pilot project was run at First United Church, Waterloo. In the fall of 1999, three more churches opened their doors to the homeless. In January of 2000 another church opened its doors to provide overnight shelter only. We have had seven sites available for the program since the fall of 2000.


Today …

For many years, replacements were found when locations became unable to continue their programs. Over the years, perhaps as many as 15 different organizations opened their doors at different times, with uncounted more participating in feeder or other supportive roles. For a number of years 11 different locations were simultaneously active during the coldest months of the year. However, by the fall of 2015, due to individually unique operational issues, all KWOOTC overnight programs had ceased.

June 25, 2015 - The Record

The feeling and impetus that brought life to K-W OOTC, remains. All current locations continue their evening meal programs.


Program Objective

To provide the homeless in our community with warm and safe overnight accommodation and nourishment within a quiet and welcoming atmosphere during the winter months.


Our Guiding Principles

  • We welcome our guests into this, our home, with dignity and respect, as invited guests inherently deserve.
  • Our organizational principles will be as simple and non bureaucratic as possible, consistent with a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
  • We are not here to preach or convert.
  • We welcome community involvement.
    (OOTC is about community, volunteers, and awareness, too.)


Code Of Ethics

  • Guests are to be treated with dignity and respect at all times.
  • Other volunteers are to be treated with respect.
  • No guest is to be given preferential treatment.
  • Personal boundaries must be respected.
  • Clothing must be appropriate, seasonal and modest. For example, no bare midriffs or undergarments exposed.
  • Do not share your last name, phone number or address with guests. Interaction with guests should always happen within view of other volunteers.
  • Any concerns about the behaviour of other volunteers should be brought either to that volunteer personally or to the shift supervisor and/or site coordinator in private.
  • Information and opinions shared with you by a guest or volunteer should remain confidential unless it either poses a threat to someone or permission is given to share it.
  • Volunteers should arrive before their shift begins and remain for the entire shift unless other arrangements can be made.
  • If you cannot make a shift, the coordinator or designate should be notified as soon as possible.
  • Volunteers should not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Decisions of other volunteers must be supported in front of the guests.
  • Where possible, decisions on evicting guests should be done in consultation with the person in charge.


Steering Committee

An Out Of The Cold Steering Committee composed of the coordinator(s) and/or their designate(s) may meet a few times a year to discuss mutual issues. It can aid in providing training, coordinated information sessions, and oversee operation of the common program within the community.


Common Rules For Our Guests

The following is not permitted at any K-W OOTC location:

  • Violence in word or deed.
  • Weapons or potential weapons
  • Alcohol, tobacco or other substances

Although smoking is permitted outside, no other alcohol or substance use is permitted anywhere upon the property.

Items may be left with the front desk upon arrival for return when leaving - leave them at your own risk. We will not be responsible for lost, stolen, or otherwise misplaced items.



Our guests are to be treated with dignity and respect at all times. Consistent with that overriding emphasis is the importance of respecting the right to privacy and confidentiality. If we succeed in creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere it is possible that our guests will share with some of us their hurts and personal information. It is our commitment that any such personal information be kept confidential.