April 1, 2023

St. John’s Kitchen, located in downtown Kitchener, is a place for local residents who might be hungry, homeless or street-involved. But it is also a diverse community and a great resource for anyone who wants to get together or feel like they have a place to belong.

Staff of St. John’s Kitchen have been serving those in need for more than 30 years. It is a place where people have a mutual respect and it offers access to a variety of supports. St John’s Kitchen has been located at 97 Victoria St. N. since 2006, on the second floor of a converted warehouse. The area is bright with open space,  high ceilings and many windows. There are lots of plants and artwork.

Every weekday morning, people will sit together to have a coffee and toast, chat, play cards or sit quietly and enjoy the company of one another. As mid-day approaches, the place starts to get packed, as around 300 begin to show up to share a hot meal. St. John’s has only a few staff; most of the workers are volunteers who do the food preparation, serving and cleanup. People who access the supports and resources offered by St. John’s Kitchen also help with the preparation and serving the meal.

Jake Bursey, outreach worker of St. John’s Kitchen, says there aren’t a lot of community spaces where people can come and build relationships. Photo by Manija Hamidullah, Spoke News

According to Immigration Waterloo Region, the region has a rich background history of welcoming refugees and refugee claimants. During the first year in Canada, refugees who are welcome are provided with so many services. Those services are offered to all type of refugees, both government-assisted and privately-sponsored.

Jake Bursey, a St. John’s outreach worker, said that the resources of St. John’s  are for anyone who wishes to attend and they don’t have any requirements — those who wish to visit St. John’s are welcome to just walk in and, if they want to have a meal, no one will question them.

“A lot of times this community has to jump through a lot of hoops in order to access resources. And so, we’ve tried to make it very easy for people to just walk in and grab a meal because everyone should have access to food.”

Bursey said that the best part about working at St. John’s is not having to push anyone who comes in and they are not expected to accomplish a set goals. The goal of the organization is to love people, across the spectrum of fragmented communities within the city.

“We don’t have a lot of spaces like this where people come and build a relationship on a daily basis, so I think it’s very valuable not just for the to low income community but for other communities as well,” he says.

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