Charles Street Men’s Hostel


When it comes to emergency food assistance at House of Friendship, most people think of our Emergency Food Hamper program.  However, this kind of assistance is provided through other House of Friendship programs as well.  Take for example, the Charles Street Men’s Hostel.

In 1939, when House of Friendship was founded, part of the original mandate was to provide emergency assistance for homeless men. What originated as a men’s mission on King Street has grown and moved to two different locations, settling at its current location at 63 Charles Street East, Kitchener, in 1982.

The present day Charles Street Men’s Hostel is a 39-bed shelter that provides short-term room and board for males 16 years of age and older who have no place to stay. It is open 7 days a week, all year round, with staff providing case work support, referrals and advocacy for the men. A drop-in is also available for men who live in the community. The program is partially funded by Region of Waterloo Social Services Department, United Way of Kitchener Waterloo and Area, program fees (room and board payment is based on income and ability to pay) and individual donations. General donations are critical to helping to fill the remaining funding gap.

Typical daily schedule:

7:00 am Breakfast
8:00 am Bedroom area is closed
9-11:00 am Building is closed
12 noon Lunch
5:00 pm Bedroom area is opened, resident’s laundry is done
6:00 pm Supper
7:00 pm New residents are registered
10:00 pm Drop-in closes for non-residents
11:00 pm Curfew and lights out

As you can imagine, feeding about 40 men, three times a day requires a lot of food, not to mention preparation!  To find out more about how the Hostel provides so many men with food assistance, I interviewed Sandra, the head of the Hostel’s kitchen staff.

The Hostel depends largely upon food donations in order to provide its meals. Not only would it be unable to survive without the donations it receives from church groups, companies, restaurants, and schools, the hostel also relies heavily upon the food donations passed on from the Emergency Food Hamper Program (EFHP). According to Sandra “without it, the hostel wouldn’t survive”

Each week the Emergency Food Hamper Program shares 250 lbs of potatoes with the hostel along with apples, onions and other fresh produce, depending upon supply.  As Sandra explains, “If the Food Hamper Program has no mushrooms, the hostel has no mushrooms”.

On the day of this interview, the Hostel received three, 30 lb roasts from the EFHP. This will provide three meals for the men and roast beef just so happens to be their second favourite meal, right behind turkey dinner!

While the Emergency Food Hamper Program shares food donations with the Hostel, the Hostel also shares food with the EFHP. Extra donations of turkeys, chicken, ground beef, frozen veggies and eggs are passed along.

“We never turn anything away. If we can’t use it, it goes to Food Hampers, or St. John’s Kitchen. It is always needed somewhere”

You can be sure that donated food is distributed food, one way or another!

The Hostel prepares ready to eat meals for those who would otherwise go hungry, while EFHP distributes food to be made into meals by those in need themselves. Both programs strive to provide balanced, healthy food options, and follow Canada’s Food Guide when preparing meals or food hampers.  Often the men arrive at the Hostel run down and the food they receive helps to build them back up, in fact, they usually put on weight while they are there.

Providing a healthy balance of ingredients is not always easy however, as there are limitations posed by the program’s small budgets and dependence on donations. No matter what though, Sandra makes sure that there is always salad at lunch, vegetables plus salad (if there’s enough lettuce) at dinner, and meat at both meals. “It’s a balancing act,” Sandra explains, “You don’t know what you’ll get week to week. It’s always fluctuating. One week donations will be great and then the next week they will be sparse.” This is a struggle that the Emergency Food Hamper Program also faces.

Mastering this balancing act takes a lot of planning and ingenuity, to say the least. Every week at the Hostel, Sandra plans a menu, but it hardly ever stays the same. A donation of prepared food may come in the night before, or in the afternoon, and suddenly there’s  cooked pasta, sandwiches or vegetable trays to be eaten! It’s all about being creative with the food supply available, and having the flexibility to adjust menu plans at short notice.

In addition to providing food for the Hostel residents, the Hostel kitchen also helps with various community meals throughout the year:
Annual Community Potato Lunch
– House of Friendship’s Volunteer Banquet
Friendship Golf Tournament BBQ
Friendship Fundraising Dinner
– Dining at Eby (Village) – every two weeks.

Ways you can help:
-Your donations of gifts-in-kind such as food, clothing, toiletries and kitchen supplies can help reduce program expenses.
-Food from work parties, special functions and events is always welcome at the back door of the Hostel located at 63 Charles Street East in Kitchener.
-Cash donations help to provide food, shelter and support to men who are homeless.

“A little can be a lot. Some people think donating food for a few, or even 20 people, isn’t going to be enough. But when you think about it, over a whole year, even small gifts of food amount to food for many, and that really helps us out!” Sandra

For more information call (519) 742-8327 or e-mail

When it comes to emergency food assistance at House of Friendship, most people think of our Emergency Food Hamper program.  But emergency food assistance is provided in other House of Friendship programs.  Take for example, the Charles Street Men’s Hostel.

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One Response to “Charles Street Men’s Hostel”

  1. melissabrosowski Says:

    Wow – you did a great job to explain such a detailed program. The hostel is definitely one of the better known locations in terms of House of Friendship programs, and this article just touches the tip of the iceberg on all the things they do for low-income men living in K-W.

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