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HOPE’s Kitchen looking to expand

After nearly six months of being in operation, H.O.P.E.’s (Helping Our People Eat) Kitchen is already looking to expand to a second location. 

The restaurant was opened by Kate Valiquette and her husband, Chris Brown, who run a towing business near the downtown core. Their restaurant on the corner of McIntyre and Ferguson Streets has been opened since June and is open to anyone who needs a meal.

Valiquette says the decision to expand operations was born out of necessity. 

“Because of how many people we service on a regular basis, we were looking for a larger space that we could adapt and branch out some of the services we offer,” she explained. 

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Valiquette says she serves over 300 people per day at the restaurant, which has since branched out to be a 24/7 warming centre in recent weeks. Valiquette has also been accepting clothing donations for people in need. 

HOPEs’ second location will be on Cassells street, taking over two units between 5th and 6th avenues. Valiquette says one half of the building will be used as a kitchen, with the other half to be used as a lounge which will have computers, showers and laundry facilities for people to use. 

The original goal for Valiquette was to buy a property and build small houses on them for people on the streets. 

“I knew it wasn’t going to be something I could do immediately,” she admitted. “We changed the structure to offer what we can at this point. My end game will always be to try and buy a property for housing.”

As for the cost, HOPE’s has been funded by Valiquette and Brown, along with donations from the community. Valiquette says local plumbers and contractors have offered to do a lot of the renovations needed at the new building. She also says she’s in the process of turning HOPE’s into a charity, which would make it eligible for more government funding. 

While HOPE’s has only been around for a short time, its impact is being felt by those on the streets. Shane Moyer, a homeless activist and a volunteer with HOPE’s Heroes Outreach, says he’s noticed some immediate benefits from HOPE’s simply being open 24/7 now. 

“The people with mental health and addictions issues are actually starting to open up more, not just to me,  but to the staff of HOPE’s Kitchen,” he said. 

Moyer adds when the low-barrier shelter on Chippewa street fills up, HOPE’s has provided a safe alternative for people on the street. 

“With HOPE’s being open 24/7, they take a lot of the overflow and the people come and go but they know they’ve got a place where they can get in that’s warm,” said Moyer.  “A lot of them don’t trust the low barrier shelter staff and that’s why we have many still camping out in tents.”

For Valiquette, it’s not a question of why she and her husband choose to help the homeless, it’s a question of ‘why not?’

“Seeing other people suffering weighs heavy on the soul. Somebody has to start caring about the people in our community that most often, we tend to look away from,” she noted. 

“I know there’s businesses out there who are struggling with people in their doorways and employees who are scared of walking to work,” Valiquette continued. “From where I stand and through working with these people, there’s nothing to be scared of if you just treat them like they’re human,”

Valiquette is planning for the new HOPE’s Kitchen location to be open in December, which is also when she’s expecting to officially become a charity. 

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