Out of the Cold

Offering Emergency Shelter, Safe Refuge, and Hospitality During the Cold Winter Months

Dixon Hall supports the Out of the Cold (OOTC) program through our Housing Services department. We have been working in partnership with the faith-based organizations who deliver the program since 2003. Every year, faith-based organizations across Toronto and the GTA open their doors to men and women experiencing homelessness during the cold winter months. Each site is open one night per week, and the program is made possible through volunteers, with over 3,000 people donating their time each year. Originally intended as an emergency measure to prevent homeless death, the program is now a staple service for men and women experiencing homelessness in Toronto.

OOTC sites provide a warm, safe place for guests to spend the night, along with a nutritious, hot meal which is open to all community members to attend, and a set number of mats to sleep on. Overnight guests receive a hot breakfast in the morning and TTC tokens. Select sites offer donated clothing rooms, legal clinics and laundry facilities.

Through our support, OOTC guests can also complete an intake process with Dixon Hall’s Client Intervention Workers. By working with our Client Intervention Workers OOTC guests may receive referrals to partner agencies for more specialized services, get housing-ready and start the process to find supportive housing, and develop a relationship leading to year-round support.

In our program support, our goal is to work meaningfully with men and women experiencing homelessness to establish connections that last beyond season close and to seek housing opportunities for them. Since 2015, we’ve employed a Data Coordinator to track site capacity information and understand demographic trends within the program. Our Client Intervention Workers have successfully housed 132 guests since January 2016.


Call 311 to get an emergency shelter bed.



e. ootc@dixonhall.org

Kathleen O'Gorman,
Manager, Out of the Cold program
t. 416.863.0499 ext 2041
e. kathleen.ogorman@dixonhall.org 

Out of the Cold Toronto - How Seasonal Programs Can Inform Permanent Solutions to Homelessness
November 2017 - April 2018
Download the report

Out of the Cold Toronto - 30 Years Later - A Growing Crisis
November 2016 - April 2017
Download the report

Calling Home - Exploring Pathways to Homelessness in our City
Comparing and contrasting experiences of OOTC guests vs. shelter residents
Research conducted between March, April, June and October 2018
Download the report

Without the kindness of volunteers, the OOTC program would not be possible. Every year, over 3,000 volunteers help men and women experiencing homelessness have a safe, secure place to sleep, and experience genuine hospitality.

Faith-based organizations recruit their own volunteers, many of whom are getting older and facing challenges in continuing their service. We need you to keep offering the program. There are a variety of roles available including meal prep, serving, cleaning, general maintenance, security, and more. All new volunteers are trained by experienced volunteers, and the time commitment involved is flexible based on your schedule.

To volunteer, please contact:

Joyce Affroh, Manager, Volunteer Services
416-863-0499 x 3225

Each Out of the Cold site has differing policies regarding media visits, on-site interviews and photography. If you are a member of the media who would like to arrange a visit to an OOTC site and would like to understand what is possible to document, please contact:

Kali Madej
Communications Manager
416-863-0499 x 2062

Please note:  arriving on-site as media without advance arrangement or notice is prohibited.

When did the OOTC program start? How did the OOTC program start?

The Out of the Cold (OOTC) program was created in 1987 by Sister Susan Moran. The program was created after a group of students from St. Michael’s school befriended a homeless man who frequented the area. After he tragically passed away, the students discussed how they could alleviate homelessness with Sister Moran. Inspired by their conversation, Sister Moran started connecting with different faith-groups across the city, and the OOTC program began. Today, the program is offered at 16 sites across Toronto, including churches, mosques, and synagogues.

 Where does the OOTC program operate? When does the OOTC program operate?

The OOTC program is offered across the city of Toronto in many different locations, from the downtown core, to the Beaches, up to North York. For a full-list of OOTC sites, please review the season calendar. The program operates beginning on November 1st, through April 5th. In 2017, due to unprecedented demand on Toronto’s shelter system, the OOTC program ran until May at three sites, for the first time ever.

Who uses the OOTC program? How many people use the OOTC program?

The OOTC program is used by men and women experiencing homelessness from all walks of life. Homelessness does not discriminate. Some guests may use the program because the Toronto shelter system is full, others choose to use the OOTC program instead of the shelter system because they prefer the environment. Through our data coordination and analysis work, we know approximately 1,241 people used the program in the 2017-2018 season, and that 75% of guests identified as male. Generally, males between 40-54 are the highest demographic accessing the program, but we see ages ranging from 19-78. For more information on program usage and user demographics, please review our OOTC research reports.

What happens if a site is full?

Every site has its own individual capacity available to guests, and its own policies on how to handle guests in excess of their capacity. Generally, sites make every effort to ensure no one is left out at their site. If impossible to accommodate extra guests, individuals are referred to City of Toronto 24-hour respite sites.

What services and supports are provided to guests of the OOTC program?

Every OOTC site provides guests with a hot, nutritious meal (open to the community to attend), a mat to sleep on; breakfast in the morning for overnight guests, and TTC tokens. Select sites offer donated clothing rooms, laundry facilities, and legal clinics. Dixon Hall provides support to sites including Client Intervention Workers, training and de-escalation support, and general logistical supports.

What is Dixon Hall’s role in the OOTC program?

Dixon Hall provides support services to 16 OOTC sites across the city, which includes: management and logistical supports, safety, data coordination and analysis, and supplies Client Intervention Workers to connect with guests in hopes of seeking additional resources and finding supportive housing.

How can I support the OOTC program?

To support the OOTC program, please consider:

  • Donating to ease the financial cost on faith-based organizations
  • Volunteering to support men and women experiencing homelessness
  • Getting involved in the advocacy efforts for affordable and supportive housing in Toronto

 I’d like to volunteer for the OOTC program. How can I get involved?

 Please contact Joyce Affroh, Manager of Volunteer Services:

Joyce Affroh
416-863-0499 x 3225

I’d like to attend the OOTC program as media. How can I arrange a site visit?

Media are not permitted at OOTC sites without being granted advance permission through Dixon Hall’s Communications team. To make a media request, please contact:

Kali Madej
Communications Manager
416-863-0499 x 2062

 What is the policy for taking photos at the OOTC program?

Typically, photos are not permitted at the OOTC program as we make a best effort to protect our guest’s privacy. In special cases, exceptions may be made. For more information on photography policy, please contact:

Kali Madej
Communications Manager
416-863-0499 x 2062

How many people have been housed through CIW work?

Our Client Intervention Workers have successfully housed 132 guests since January 2016. Once housed, Client Intervention Workers continue their relationships with former OOTC guests to help ensure housing is maintained, and that additional supports are put into place as necessary.

Do OOTC sites accept clothing or other donations?

Yes! The OOTC site relies on donations and volunteers to run every year. To find out how you can best support the faith-based organizations who host men and women experiencing homelessness, please contact:

Rebecca Hare
Director, Philanthropy & Communications
416-863-0499 x 2061