Hope’s Kitchen began because of the cold and COVID-19.
The pandemic had just begun last March when, fearing the virus would spread among the local homeless population, the city of North Bay, Ont., closed its only warming centre. That night the temperature plummeted to -20 C.
“It left people out on the street overnight without any shelter available,” said Katie Valiquette. “When we found that out, it kind of broke our hearts.”
Valliquette, 35, and her husband Chris Brown own and operate Flat-Rate Towing and Recovery, a tow-truck company in North Bay — a city of about 50,000.
“So what we ended up doing was opening our garage doors,” Valiquette said. “We ran a barbecue out the back door and made sure everybody had a full meal. We had set up chairs inside the garage for a place for people to go and warm up.”
Valiquette kept her garage open for two days, until the city reopened its own facility. She and her husband bonded with the 75 or so homeless people she estimates came to get warm.
“We consider them family members. They’re our street family,” she said. “A lot of them didn’t know what they were going to do or what was going to happen, much the same way that none of us did.”
Katie Valiquette, along with her husband, Chris Brown, opened the Hope’s Kitchen 24-hour drop in centre in North Bay, Ont., to give homeless people in the community a place to get something to eat and warm up. ‘We consider them family members,’ she said. (Nick Purdon/CBC)