Coldest Night of the Year takes place Saturday

Fundraising walk draws support and awareness for the homless, hungry and hurting

Paul Rodgers

On Saturday, February 24 the Homeless Outreach and Homeless Prevention Centre is, for the second year, putting on a Coldest Night of the Year walk to raise funds and awareness for the work that they do here in Cranbrook.

The Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) is a Canada-wide fundraising event that was started by registered Canadian charity Blue Sea Philanthropy. CNOY gives participants the chance to experience a small window into the challenges faced by Canada’s homeless population, by taking a five to ten kilometre walk on a cold winter night, with proceeds supporting charities who serve the homeless.

Tracy Pound and Erin Pan, coordinators at Cranbrook Homeless Outreach and Prevention Program sat down with the Townsman to talk about the event.

The organization does take a cut of the proceeds, explained Pound, but that goes towards providing important tools such as marketing as well as supplying swag such as t-shirts and toques. They also provide tax receipts for any donation $20 or more.

“Where using CNOY works out really well for us is that our job is homeless outreach and prevention. So Erin and I are not master fundraisers, we’re not marketers or experts with that. This is another job that we’re doing off the side of our desk, so we need a little bit of that support.”

Last year they raised nearly $42,000 and the event had around 200 walkers and 70 to 80 volunteers.

“We had an amazing turnout and the event was very popular and very successful. And so there was a lot of positive feedback from the community and a good response.”

Fundraising kicked off on December 1, when the website went live, and donations are collected through until March 31, so latecomers can donate well after the event itself. The funds raised go towards supporting the clients of the Homeless Outreach and Homeless Prevention Centre, which falls under the umbrella of Community Connections Society and is located in their building at 209A 16th Avenue N.

The scope of their services, especially considering it is just the two of them in the office, is quite vast, dealing with young people all the way through to seniors, with their oldest client being 89. They provide rental subsidies in some cases or help them supplement their utilities bill. They also work as liaisons between other services, connecting people with agencies such as Mental Health or East Kootenay Addictions Outreach.

“When you work in the social service sector, a lot of people tend to lump everything together like we’re all one, right?” said Pound, and gave the example of McDonalds, KFC and Arby’s. They’re all fast-food restaurants, but they are totally separate entities.

“And that’s a hard thing for people to wrap their head around sometimes with the social service sector so we work really closely with mental health outreach, East Kootenay Addiction Services, The Salvation Army, Street Angels, all of those organizations, but we are each our own separate organization. And we each have a different role but we all often work very closely together and we often partner together.”

They provided some statistics that indicate how much work they do, and give an insight as to what homelessness in Cranbrook looks like.

Between January 1 and December 31, 2017, they met an average of 14 new clients per month, saw an average of 10 people per month who were absolutely homeless, met face to face with a minimum of 50 clients per month, consulted with other service providers over 25 times per month, and fielded over 3,200 phone calls that year. On average, 64 people in crisis drop in to see them every month.

“With CNOY and what we found through doing this work is there’s a strong need for a lot of people,” said Pound. “It doesn’t take much for something to happen. We always have this saying, a person is one or two pay checks from being in trouble.”

She cited our area’s high unemployment rates, cyclical, seasonal and lower income jobs and a vacancy rate of only 1.2 per cent as some problems specific to contributing to Cranbrook’s homelessness.

You can get involved with CNOY in a variety of ways. Pound explained that some people become a team captain and recruit others and raise money as a unit. Other people donate directly to the website. Some decide to just come out and walk the night of and pay the registration fee. Others contribute by volunteering.

They have a total of 30 sponsors from local businesses, with their lead sponsor being The Credit Union and Western Financial Group as their supporting sponsorship. Then there is in-kind sponsorship from businesses like The Heidout who provides soup and food at the end of the walk, or Hotshots who is one of the warm-up spots.

Visit https://cnoy.org/location/cranbrook to register, volunteer or learn more about the event. Current Cranbrook has 26 teams, 126 walkers and 63 volunteers with a total of $21,904 raised.

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