How the Cafe Started

In April 2020 of the pandemic Jodi was asked if she knew anywhere a homeless person could get a shower. She called every shelter in Barrie, Newmarket and surrounding areas and everything was shut down. Shelters could no longer do new intakes or even let outsiders in their buildings. Within 24 hours of our Mayor, Rob Keffer, Deputy Mayor, James Leduc, and CAO, Geoff McKnight learning of the need, they came up with a solution. They opened the outside access doors into the bathroom and shower facilities of the old community centre off Simcoe Rd. two days a week. It was the only place a homeless person could get a shower during the height of the pandemic in all of Simcoe County. 

Within a week of offering the showers the deputy mayor suggested to some of the main community based service providers (A Helping Hand Food Bank, A Hand Up clothing room and the Community Meal) that we needed to provide these people with meals and clothing. Within two weeks meals were being provided in conjunction with the two shower days and the food bank and clothing room were working together to provide them with basic needs.

As we connected more with some of the homeless friends in our town, one of them said, "It's really expensive to be homeless in the winter." In order for someone to sit inside they need to buy a coffee or something to eat. During the pandemic this was not even an option. That's when we started talking about offering a FREE cafe. When it came to deciding the hours of the Cafe another friend suggested that it should be open 7 days a week, "because homeless people don't take weekends off."  We also began to dreaming about providing a meal 7 days a week. That goal quickly became a reality through the generosity of local restaurants and churches. Our Bradford community ROCKS! 

Simcoe County deemed The Cafe 'essential' during the pandemic and our volunteer TEAM kept the doors open the entire time. The Out of the Cold Cafe served as the only place providing in-person supports in South Simcoe during the pandemic. 

More Than a Cafe

When our TEAM first opened the Out of the Cold Cafe on November 1st 2020 our hope was to simply provide a hot cup of coffee and a warm meal to anyone in need. As word on the street spread and trust was developed, people began to come and kept coming. During the various COVID lock downs we were deemed an essential service and  kept our doors open because our TEAM stepped up and were willing to keep serving in person. As the only service provider in Bradford with in-person support our TEAM sought to adapt and come up with creative solutions to help trouble shoot with people. Computers, printers and fax capability were added as well as a semi-private space where TEAM members could assist people with assessments, interviews and intakes. Our TEAM has learned a lot about housing needs and has successfully assisted 41 individuals find long term housing since November 2020 and 87% of them are still housed.

We are so proud of their efforts and willingness to go the extra mile to assist people. 

We have also learned the beauty of collaboration!  Working with other South Simcoe agencies like SHIFT (formerly Alliston Out of the Cold - AOTC), CONTACT Community Services, Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) has allowed us to provide those who come through our doors with even greater support. These agencies have provided housing and harm reductions workers who have offered services both in-person as well as over the phone. 

We are privileged to also be a part of the South Simcoe chapter of the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness (SCATEH). This group is highly motivated to work together to develop and implement creative solutions to end homelessness in South Simcoe.