Program at a glance

  • Shopping for staples takes place during the week and fresh produce is bought on Thursdays.
  • The Cooking Team arrives after 1:00 p.m. on Thursday and begins dinner preparations.
  • Security volunteer arrives at 3:00 p.m.
  • The Set-up shift begins at 3:30 and volunteers start room set-up and do prep in the kitchen.
  • Guests are welcomed into the Social Hall at around 3:30 p.m., where they are registered starting at 4:00 p.m. Snacks and hot drinks are provided. They rest and some help with set-up.
  • Dinner shift volunteers begin arriving at 6:00 p.m.
  • The nurse arrives at 6:00 and stays until 8:00 p.m.
  • Announcements are made and dinner is served at 6:30 until 8:00 p.m.
  • The Clothing Boutique is open from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
  • Foot Care is offered from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
  • Once dinner is complete, the tables and chairs are cleared and stacked, the socialization area is set up, and the floor is washed.
  • Socialization activities are offered from 8:00 – 10:00 p.m.
  • The movie starts at 8:00 p.m.
  • Mats are put down at 8:30 p.m.
  • Lights are lowered at 9:00 p.m.
  • Kitchen clean up takes place between 8:30- 10:00, latecomers are served.
  • Snacks and hot drinks are available during the night.
  • Dixon Hall staff and volunteers are on duty throughout the night.
  • The Breakfast team arrives at 6:00 a.m. on Friday and begins breakfast preparation.
  • Guests are awakened at 6:30 a.m.
  • Breakfast is served from 6:30 – 8:00 a.m.
  • Guests leave at 8:00 a.m.
  • Final room and kitchen clean up from 7:30- 8:00 a.m.

The Shifts

Upon arrival and departure, volunteers must sign in and out at the Volunteer table. Any questions or concerns about the program can be directed to the Volunteer Coordinators. Many of the shifts are run by a Shift Manager who has the responsibility to ensure that the tasks of that shift are performed
smoothly. While on the floor, all questions and concerns should be directed to an appropriate Shift Manager, the Volunteer Coordinators or the Program Coordinator. Any concerns about guest behaviour should be directed to the Security Shift Manager, or the Program or Volunteer Coordinators.

Set-Up 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

This shift gets the program started. Bag lunches are made for the next day, coffee, tea, juice and snacks are prepared for the arrival of the guests. Tables are set. As the season progresses, the guests participate with set-up. The Volunteer name tags and Weekly Attendance binder are retrieved and the Volunteer table is staffed from 3:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Security 3:00 p.m. Thursday –9:00 a.m. Friday

The observation and interpersonal skills of the people doing this job make our program one of the safest and most welcoming of the OOTC programs in the city. “Security” may connote that people on this shift are required to be strong and forceful but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the Security people appear to be just ‘hanging around’, often engaging with guests but always with a watchful eye for any behaviour that may lead to disruption. Unruly guests are treated calmly, with respect and dignity. If they are not able to settle and become a detriment to the program, they are politely asked to leave and are gently escorted out of the building. Dixon Hall staff can assist in ensuring a secure environment. Security volunteers also distribute the sleeping mats.
Security volunteers are needed from 3:00 p.m. Thursday to 9:00 a.m. Friday. Hours of service can be arranged individually.

Reception 3:00 p.m.– 9:00 p.m.

Volunteers who sit at the Reception desk are the real “first point of contact” for our guests. They greet the guests, register them, prepare a name tag, offer a clothing number and note any behavioural or health concerns which is then conveyed to someone on Security or to the Coordinator. Guests are invited to find a seat at a table. A designated volunteer can assist guests in finding a spot and also ensures that latecomers are seated and fed.
The Reception table is staffed from 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Shifts are quite varied, as we need more people at some times than others. Some volunteers work just an hour, some an hour and a half, etc. , and shifts can be arranged individually.

Nursing Care 6:00 p.m.– 8:00 p.m.

We have a nurse available on site in the early part of the evening to help guests with health concerns.  The nurse can provide some over-the-counter medications, will dress wounds or, when necessary, advise what further medical attention should be taken by the guest.

Dinner 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

This is the busiest, most attended shift. After signing in at the Volunteer table, volunteers check in with the Dinner Shift Manager and are assigned a table that they are responsible for serving and cleaning, or a job such as serving bread or juice/ water. Lanyards with table number are also picked up from the Dinner Shift Manager (only one lanyard per table). Two people are often assigned to serve one table. It’s important that volunteers do not switch their table numbers or jobs without notifying the Dinner Shift Manager. Dinner shift volunteers congregate near the windows to the kitchen prior to the start of dinner service. The Dinner Shift volunteers determine the number of guests at their table and when the announcements are done, dinner begins.

There are usually four courses served – salad, soup, main course and dessert. Volunteers line up against the wall in an orderly fashion to collect each course for their table from the counter beneath the kitchen windows. If trays are available, volunteers are welcome to use them. If it’s not possible to able to carry all the plates for their table at one time, volunteers serve and then rejoin the line to pick up the remaining plates. Each guest at the table should be asked if they would like that specific course before setting the plate down, in order to reduce waste. Plates for each course are cleared before serving the next and are brought to the slop station by the door to the kitchen. If requested by a guest, a vegetarian option is often available, and the volunteer should ask the cooks at the window. As for requests for “seconds”, the volunteer should ask the Dinner Shift Manager if there is sufficient quantity before a second helping is offered, as we need to ensure that there will be enough food for latecomers. Volunteers assigned to serve bread and juice/water circulate through the room several times, stopping at each table to offer guests same.

It is the responsibiity of Dinner Shift volunteers to clear and clean their table. Once the meal is complete, the tables are cleared of any remaining food and utensils, salt and pepper shakers are placed in the bin, the cardboard table numbers are returned to the Dinner Shift Manager and the tables are wiped down with disinfectant. At the appropriate time, the tables are collapsed and stored or moved to the socialization area and the chairs are stacked. Lanyards are returned to the Dinner Shift Manager.
Two volunteers are also needed to scrape plates at the slop table.

Foot Care 7:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m.

Foot Care is a small but very special part of the program. Volunteers provide hands-on care and nurturing which is a rare and treasured experience for our guests, and welcome relief for tired, aching feet. Some of our guests walk for miles throughout the city in old, wet shoes. Receiving foot care is sometimes the only time that our guests have an opportunity to have a positive, one-to-one conversation and it is often the highlight of their week.

Some volunteers for this shift work in a supporting role -carrying water, preparing soaking basins, and emptying them. Volunteers who provide the foot care clip nails, and massage feet. New socks are offered. Training is required and provided for this shift.

Clothing 6:30 p.m.- 8:30 p.m.

This shift begins with the sorting of clothes that were donated during the week. Clothing that is inappropriate for our guests is bagged for donation. The clothing bins and racks are retrieved from the storage area and the clothing is organized into categories, ready for distribution. Guests are called by the number they received from Reception upon arrival. Only one article per category is allowed. Once all the numbers have been called, the clothing is folded and repacked into the bins which are returned to the storage area. If a piece of clothing is not selected after several weeks, it’s bagged for donation. This shift requires patience, diplomacy and a smile.

Socialization 8:00 p.m.– 10:00 p.m.

This shift involves lots of contact with guests and provides an opportunity to build relationships and to connect. Volunteers sit and talk quietly with guests, play cards and board games or lead a quiet bingo game. A movie is also shown during this time.  All guests and volunteers are welcome to participate in art activities.  Lately sculpting and drawing have been favored and we a have volunteer to lend support.

Late Kitchen 8:00 p.m.– 10:00 p.m.

Volunteers during this shift continue the kitchen clean-up, prepare the evening snacks and launder the Foot Care towels. Volunteers are designated to serve dinner to latecomers.

Late Evening 10:00 p.m.–12:00 p.m.

Volunteers on this shift perform periodic security checks, greet and provide food for latecomers , complete the kitchen clean-up, take out the garbage, stock and maintain the snack area, do an inventory check, prepare the shopping list for the next week and begin the set-up for breakfast.

Overnight Midnight–Friday 6:00 a.m.

This is generally a quiet shift. Volunteers may be called upon to heat up some soup for a guest who wakes up hungry or sit and talk with a guest who is agitated and can’t sleep. The primary task is to keep the room peaceful. Dixon Hall staff takes responsibility for this shift but volunteers are welcome to attend as well.

Breakfast 6:00 a.m.–8:00 a.m.

These early-bird volunteers wake the guests, prepare, serve and clean up breakfast, as well as wash and stack the sleeping mats. A security-minded volunteer keeps an eye on the guests who are waiting in the foyer from 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. while the Wychwood Open Door (a daytime drop-in at the same location) sets up for their program.


A shopping list is prepared at the end of every Thursday evening and it’s emailed to the volunteer who is scheduled to do the shopping for the following week. Generally it takes no more than 45 minutes or less (except in the first few weeks). Shopping is usually done at the No Frills near St. Clair and Oakwood. One person can do the shopping on their own and there are always people at the church to help unload and carry the food downstairs. The food must arrive at the church between 2:30 – 3:00 p.m.

Cooking Teams

Each week the meal is prepared by a different cooking team that takes full responsibility for the dinner – from raising the money to pay for the meal (from $400 – $1000 depending on whether the team decides to make a beautiful roast chicken dinner, a hearty shepherd’s pie, or a prime rib dinner!!!), shopping, prep, cooking, serving, and clean up. Cooking teams are required to clean the kitchen before leaving. About 10 people (or more depending on the menu) are required in the kitchen. Detailed instructions and resources for recipes are available.

Cooking teams are scheduled in September and October for the length of the program.
Please contact Lynda Champagne at
for information.

Important Dates

Orientation for New Volunteers
Thursday October 19, 2017

7:30 pm. St. Matthew's United Church (no pre-registration required)

Thursday November 2, 2017
Program starts

Thursday December 21, 2017
Christmas at Out of the Cold

Thursday March 29, 2018
Program ends for season

Donors & Supporters

Click the link below to see the many organizations, businesses and individuals that have graciously provided their support!

Please contact us if you'd like to donate and support the program. Every contribution, big or small, has a significant impact on the service we can offer our guests.

List of Donors & Supporters >>

An Invitation To Donate >>

Here is a short documentary on the importance of clean dry socks for the homeless. A donation of socks goes a long way to providing much needed warmth and comfort to our guests.

Socks for the Homeless >>

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