Nobody chooses to be homeless, especially during our harsh Canadian winters. Frostbite, illness, hypothermia, depression, loneliness – and hunger are all dangerous factors resulting from living on the streets. For residents of Newmarket and the surrounding area, they can find shelter at Inn From the Cold (IFTC).
IFTC is a volunteer-based, multi-faceted charitable organization that assists the homeless and at risk. The need for an emergency homeless shelter was identified in 2004 by a group of caring and dedicated local volunteers. In addition to providing shelter, IFTC also assists in providing supplemental health services to guests, and work skills training for those facing barriers to employment. Partner agencies include: York Regional Police, Canadian Mental Health Association of York, Addiction Services of York Region, LOFT/Street Outreach, LOFT/Crosslinks, York Social Services Network, 310 COPE, Southlake Regional Hospital, Newmarket Public Library, Job Skills, Veteran Affairs, and Community Living of Newmarket/Aurora District.
The shelter is a welcome refuge for men and women during the winter months from November to March. The shelter is open from 8pm to 8am every day. “Guests” as they are called, can arrive between 8pm – 11pm, register and receive a nutritious hot meal and warm accommodations for the night. “They are also provided with breakfast and a bagged lunch to take with them,” says Tom Vegh, Executive Director. “Last year we were open for 153 nights and we provided shelter for 2,112 guests. We also provided 5,208 meals.”
Meals are all prepared in house in the shelter’s kitchen. A major fundraising initiative that helps support IFTC is its catering company. Headed by a red-seal chef, Eat Inn Catering is a non-profit social-enterprise that provides customers with gourmet food, and also provides skills training for the homeless to gain experience for future employment. “Proceeds from the catering business go directly to the running of the shelter,” says Vegh. “It’s another way to use our kitchen during the daytime.” Using fresh ingredients sourced from local businesses, Eat Inn Catering can provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for various functions.
While profits from the catering help sustain IFTC’s operations, Vegh says that because the cost of food has risen so much they are seeking assistance. It costs $150 per day for dinner, breakfast and a bagged lunch for all guests. “We are seeking out people who would like to sponsor a night, for example or an entire week,” explains Vegh.
IFTC also offers a valuable employment program to guests. It’s a 12-week course with six weeks of in-class training and six weeks of internship. Classes include computer training, life skills, journaling and meditation, financial management and drama. “The program has a phenomenal success rate,” notes Vegh. “65% of the participants in the program end up employed.” Employment following the program is usually in retail, construction, foodservice and maintenance.
Moving forward, IFTC is focusing on working as an agency in the prevention of homelessness, stepping in to help at risk members of the community before they find themselves without a home. “It’s a long road to homelessness – it can be prevented and that’s what we’re changing the focus to,” says Vegh.
As the days turn colder, we pull out our winter clothes, and tuck into warm beds at night. But for those who are less fortunate, Inn From the Cold will be open to them. “They’re welcome to come every single day.”
4T Miler Race Fundraising Event
Benefitting Inn From the Cold, this run/walk 5k or 10 mile race will raise money and awareness to end homelessness. September 27, 2015, 9am at the George Richardson Park, Newmarket.
Inn From the Cold, innfromthecold.ca
Eat Inn Catering, eatinncatering.com
By Becky Dumais