People in the Nelson area will be walking in the cold next month to help the homeless.
The eighth annual Coldest Night of the Year is being held Saturday, Feb. 26 in neighbourhoods around the city and the region.
The national event is put on locally by the Nelson CARES (Community, Advocacy, Residential Services, Employment, Services) Society and raises money for the Ready for Home program that has been running since 2016.
In an interview with Vista Radio, fundraising coordinator Stephanie Myers hopes they can build on the success last year of the first virtual event. Myers says they weren’t sure what was going to happen but 240 people signed up in 2021 and raised just over $94,000, compared to $58,000 during the previous in-person event.
“We were so overwhelmed with the support.” She believes it was due to people not travelling for winter vacations, plus the pandemic has “laid bare for folks how precarious everyone’s situation is.”
Myers says Coldest Night of the Year helps people understand what it’s like to brave the elements without a roof over your head.
“Walking outside in the evenings and that’s actually one of the reasons they do the walk in the evening is to give folks kind of just little, just a taste of what it might be like to be out on the streets on a February evening and that’s just for a couple of hours, right? It makes them think, what would it be like to be out here the whole night or nights on end,” Myers says.
They are encouraging people to do the two or five kilometer walk within their neighbourhood on Feb. 26 or any night of the month for that matter and then raise money within their network of friends.
“If you want to do it in Blewett, if you want to do it in your own little neighbourhood, then have at it,” she says.
The Ready for Home program at Ward Street Place is based on the Housing First model and has a full-time staff member who works with people to maintain their health and housing and prevent homelessness.
“Once you get folks in housing and get them stable there, then they can work with everything else – their health, whether they’ve got substance abuse issues, all of that sort of stuff. They (Ward Street Place staff) help the residents there navigate health care documents, government documents, any sort of rehabilitation they want to do, dental care, all of that sort of stuff,” Myers says.
She adds the work has been “ratcheted up” during the pandemic, with grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions and helping people in vulnerable situations who’ve been “pretty much staying isolated for a lot of the time.”
You can find out more about fundraising and the event on their website or their Facebook page. You can also email Stephanie Myers at [email protected]