Street kids get a temporary haven

Street kids get a temporary haven

Drop-in centre at St. John’s Kitchen gives young people place to eat, shower

The drop-in centre helps about 20 people a night, says Sandy Bell, executive director of Reaching Our Outdoor Friends.

KITCHENER (Dec 13, 2006)

Almost a year after fire destroyed their downtown Kitchener refuge, street kids have found another place where they can eat, shower and do laundry.

Five nights a week, they use a drop-in support service provided by Reaching Our Outdoor Friends — known as ROOF — at St. John’s Kitchen at 97 Victoria St. N. near Weber Street West.

Sandy Bell, ROOF executive director, said the drop-in helps about 20 people from the ages of 12 to 25 most nights.

"It’s fantastic for us because we can give them a hot meal (and) they can also get food hampers," she said. "They also have a place where they can get cleaned up and do their laundry."

Before finding space at St. John’s, ROOF operated a drop-in centre at Trinity United Church. That space is now being used to provide food and beds for the Out of the Cold program for homeless people.

Bell said homeless street kids sometimes sleep at Out of the Cold church shelters.

She said ROOF is trying to get a demolition permit from Kitchener to tear down the gutted remains of the former headquarters at 242 Queen St. S. near Courtland Avenue.

Agency officials are undecided about future use of the site but an announcement is expected soon from ROOF’s board of directors.

Until ROOF finds a new home, staff will continue to work out of office space in the Betty Thompson Youth Centre at 41 Weber St. W.

Meanwhile, St. John’s Kitchen is open every day and is operated by the Working Centre.

Joe Mancini, the Working Centre co-ordinator, said the ROOF drop-in is a temporary use that is well supervised by ROOF staff.

Daily meals and support services provided for older, low-income people are finished by 2 p.m. every day and the drop-in is a completely separate service.

Mancini said ROOF does great work with young street people "and they deserve to have a proper facility where they can provide that service."

ROOF received an insurance payout on its building and about $75,000 in community donations after the Dec. 28 blaze, which was deliberately set.

Five young people faced charges after the fire, including one who was sent to prison for 33 months.

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