Partnership helps return Out of the Cold program

City of St. Catharines press release – A new partnership between the City of St. Catharines and the Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre will ensure the Out of the Cold shelter opens its doors this winter.

Out of the Cold is an emergency shelter program providing shelter, meals and support for people in need from November to April. The program has operated in St. Catharines churches for the past 22 years with the support of volunteers. With an increase in numbers and the need for space, the program was at risk until the Folk Arts and the City came together to provide space in time for the start of 2018/2019 program, on Thursday, Nov. 1/2018.

“I’m relieved we were able to work together to find a solution to this community challenge. We all know that an emergency shelter is not a solution to homelessness – but it is a critical lifeline to safety, shelter and support for people in need to find stable, affordable housing,” said Mayor Walter Sendzik. “This partnership is a positive example of how a compassionate city can work together to find solutions to community challenges.”

Out of the Cold overnight stays are coordinated by Start Me Up Niagara, with funding from Niagara Region and the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative for overnight stays. Meals are provided by donations at several St. Catharines churches. In September, City Council agreed to provide City facilities for the shelter space and up to $15,000 in funding.

Susan Venditti, executive director of Start Me Up Niagara (SMUN) and chair of the Out of the Cold Committee, spoke about the partnership’s impact on the program.

“Out of the Cold’s goal to have one location for overnights with support staff on site has been partially accomplished through this partnership,” said Venditti. “Three nights at Robertson Hall plus four at individual churches ensures that many homeless individuals will be accommodated this winter and receive support on site every night to help them secure housing. This is a big step forward.”

The Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre (NFAMC) is a not-for-profit organization that provides holistic integration and settlement support to newcomers in Niagara. The Folk Arts runs programs at facilities owned by the City of St. Catharines at 85 Church St. in the downtown. Through this partnership the Folk Arts will provide space for the overnight shelter program on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, from Nov. 1 through to April 15, 2019.

“Service to those in need is a core value for us all as Canadians and newcomers share the same value,” said Emily Kovacs, executive director of the Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre. “This is an excellent opportunity for NFAMC and SMUN to collaborate and change the narrative and perceptions of newcomers and those experiencing homelessness have of each other and mainstream perception of both groups. We serve three types of individuals at both of our organizations: someone’s parent, sibling or child.”

The City continues to work with Niagara Region Community Services and the Out of the Cold program on long-term solutions for the shelter and affordable housing. Anyone in need of immediate shelter or housing support should call 211 to access support.

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