Thanks to volunteers, Out of the Cold not out of food

More than 100 food donors have ensured that no one sleeps hungry at shelter facility in Dartmouth

A temporary shelter in Dartmouth doesn’t have a kitchen or stove, but volunteers are making sure 40 people staying there stay fed.

Out of the Cold’s shelter facility, which has been operating in the Gray Arena since September, has increased the number of people housed there from 30 to 40 over the last two weeks. However, with no way to prepare meals at the arena, the organization has had to rely on donations from the people of Halifax.

Out of the Cold accepts meals for lunch and supper, and desserts. Shelter co-ordinator Chloe Budd believes people have responded promptly and affirmatively to the call.

“I had to email everybody that’s providing a meal for November and say, ‘Would you be able to increase your meal from 30 people to 40 people?’ and every single person emailed me back and said, ‘Absolutely, we can do that.’”

To Budd, the government has failed its people and the organizations that support them in various ways.

“It’s true that the community should not be the people that are supporting these people but that’s the reality as of now,” she said.

Community members have either donated or offered to donate meals several times a month. For November, 28 people have registered to donate two or more meals to the shelter.

Catherine Bryan, an assistant professor at the school of social work in Dalhousie University, donated meals four times in October and has registered to donate meals six times in November.

“I think they do really good work and the folks they work with deserve dignity and more good nourishing food,” Bryan said.

Bryan said that people definitely realize it is a need that has resulted in already-fulfilled meal requirements for the rest of November and December.

“When I went to find out for December two days ago, the sheet was practically filled for all of the next month,” she said.

Out of the Cold’s call for meal donations for December.   Shlok Talati

Out of the Cold went from a volunteer-based model to a staff-based model in March 2020 due to COVID-19. The organization now works 24-7 and houses only a set number of people instead of offering emergency beds or accepting community referrals.

After shifting the facility four times in a year from St. Matthew’s United Church to Needham Community Centre to a house on College Street to a hotel in Dartmouth, Out of the Cold eventually found themselves running a municipality-owned shelter facility in Gray Arena this September.

Out of The Cold’s shelter facility in Gray Arena, Dartmouth.   Shlok Talati

Sunpreet Singh, a member of the Maritime Sikh Society, organized meal donation drives in Halifax’s Victoria Park in December 2018 and 2019. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the drive came to a halt in 2020.

With Out of the Cold’s call for meal donations, Singh has registered to donate meals again next month. For Singh, the motivation to donate food comes from history books on Sikh traditions.

“The two younger kids (aged 9 and 7) of the tenth Sikh Guru were put in cold conditions by a Mughal ruler on Dec. 27. The ruler did not provide them food for three days. But, people from other communities served them hot meals,” he said.

For Bryan and Singh, making a donation involves planning a meal for 40, getting groceries, making the meal, and packaging and delivering it. If there has ever been a shortage of food at the shelter, co-ordinator Budd said that people have not been going hungry.

“The task of feeding 40 people is a huge, huge one. Out of the Cold understands how big of a job that is and we are so grateful for everyone to support us,” Budd said.

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