The Out of the Cold Cafe is a drop-in location providing healthy food, a warm, safe place, and access to resources for those experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.
Located at 31 Frederick St. in Bradford, it’s in the lower level of the CrossTrainer’s building where A Hand Up clothing room and The Hub are housed. Resources are available to use for free, and volunteers provide essential services. For instance, if someone needs to get info on housing, medical, or transportation, Out of the Cold Cafe helps them find people for that service.
Volunteer Nina Weber is being recognized for her contributions by going off-book and starting a new chapter for the Cafe to make it even better.
“We take anything we can get from the community, and the one thing I found was outstanding is the community of Bradford," Weber says.
"Everything here at the Cafe is donated; it’s run on charity only, without government funding,” she adds.
Most people using the Cafe are the elderly, but the tragic truth is that everyone has been affected by economic instability in some way. The declining availability of affordable housing has been preventing people from paying their bills, especially in recent years.
“Most people in here are bringing in only a few hundred dollars a month, and 98 per cent of their income is going towards rent, so how can they buy food or clothing?” Weber adds.
Luckily, Bradford's businesses have stepped up and filled that void for the Cafe; all the food provided is donated by local restaurants, such as Perfect SZN, Little Caesars, and Starbucks, among others.
“None of this could be possible without the generosity of everybody who volunteers and donates from the Bradford community," Weber states
How Weber got involved with Out of the Cold Cafe is bittersweet. Unfortunately, her son passed away two and half years ago at the very young age of 20. She decided to retire from her 43-year career as a travelling saleswoman so she could focus on healing herself after her loss.
“I couldn’t handle it," she explains. "I was looking for therapy to help me through it, but in my journey, I found out that the more you give, the more you heal.”
Weber is a strong believer in the little things and how big of an impact they can make on people’s lives, which is what led her to start the library in the Café.
The library is built solely on free books and consists of deleted publications from the Toronto Catholic District School Board library collections. The idea was sparked simply by being observant of what she thought the people needed. Since its inception, locals have added to the collection with movies and music. Weber put it into perspective by saying, “A lot of the people who come in here don’t have phones or TVs; they can’t afford to go to the movies or big events, so what do they do?”
“I know I’m being recognized, and that’s wonderful, but the truth is it’s not just one of us that makes a difference; it’s a group of dedicated individuals who work tirelessly for the cause. Particularly Jodi Greenstreet, who is our motivator, our inspiration, and our goodwill ambassador. She goes out into the community and recruits people to donate," Weber adds.
In Weber's experience, she finds that most people want to help, but they just don’t know how. Her solution: just ask! She’s discovered that by simply asking the community, a path is formed where people finally know where to go and give to the less fortunate. Based on the results, people want to give, so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open because not only does it help organizations like Out of the Cold Café, but it helps build a stronger community.
Weber sums it up by saying, “It’s been a very enlightening experience for me, and it’s definitely helped the healing process as well. Ultimately, it’s a tragic loss for me, the passing of my son, but I’m strong enough to move forward and use this experience to help others.”