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Siloam Mission celebrated the opening of its new kitchen, dining room and drop-in centre at their annual Thanksgiving feast today.

Patrons lined up to get a look at the new facility which seats 400 people, up from 150 at the old hall, according to Siloam Mission CEO Jim Bell.

It has extra space so patrons waiting to be seated can stand inside and also has a much larger kitchen for volunteers to work in.

“It’s essentially three times the current numbers and we’re very excited about this,” said Bell. “During the winter especially it gets very cold and people were often crouched in crevices and between buildings to hide from the wind.”

“We’re going to remove that obstacle for people so they can wait inside and enjoy themselves in the heat.”

Bell says it is bittersweet that Siloam is expanding because that means homelessness is an issue affecting more people in Winnipeg. But he says it’s important for them to accept reality and prepare as best as they can to help people get back on their feet.

“The needs increase over time and we’re hoping to expand our other services to help people,” said Bell. “We’ll be spending a lot of time on housing initiatives, social enterprise and getting people back to work.”

SILOAM NEW DINING HALL 2Volunteers working in the new kitchen

Siloam recently announced a plan to expand their bed count by 50 with funds from the federal and provincial governments. The opening of the new dining area and drop-in centre is part one of a two-part development for Siloam. Bell says they are close to breaking ground on the second phase, a two-storey link between the two buildings.

Priscilla Matwick and Lucy Kesick are patrons at Siloam and sat down to eat their Thanksgiving meal together. Both are very impressed with the new space.

“I am totally blessed,” said Matwick. “It gives you a sense of hope and it rejuvenates your feelings because the old place was kind of small and a bit depressing. Here it’s lighter and brighter and I see a lot of happier faces.”

“I lived here for seven months after I fell on some hard times,” Kesick said.  “It’s helped me and now I have a place of my own.”

“This new facility is fabulous," Kesick continued. "It’s much bigger than the one before and here we can all be together.”

SILOAM NEW DINING HALL 1Lucy Kesick (left) and Priscilla Matwick (right)

Matwick said she’s waited in the cold for these meals and she’s excited that this new space will help alleviate that.

“I’ve always worried about people’s safety,” she said. “In the winter time there are some people who aren’t dressed right and I worry about their feet, fingers and ears and that always bothered me.”

The new dining area is located at 303 Stanley Ave, right behind Siloam’s main building at 300 Princess St.