Aubin Boudreau, who works at the Accueil Bonneau mission in Old Montreal, said homeless people should instead be encouraged to visit a shelter where it's safe and warm.
Boudreau said volunteers' hearts are in the right place, but people on the street should be encouraged to get off the streets in winter.
He said drug and alcohol addiction can make it harder for some people to check into shelters, while others find a sense of community on the streets.
On Saturday, a dozen independent volunteers handed out food, warm clothing and a few sleeping bags in Old Montreal.
Volunteer Daniele Roch said the group wasn't trying to dissuade people from going to a shelter.
"It's not that we don't want people to get help. It's just when they sleep outside, to help them out a bit," said Roch.
Some people with experience living on the street said the volunteers are right to give people what they need to survive.
"Some people will always choose to stay outside," said Steve Boutin, who is renting a room now, but spent several winters sleeping outside in Quebec City.
Claude St. Pierre said when he was first sleeping outdoors, he felt free — but it came at a price.
“Because the street is tough,” he said.
St. Pierre has a place in a shelter now. He went back to school and is following a program to help him find work.