Organizers are happy after a successful inaugural fundraising event that saw Cranbrook joining 100 cities around Canada in support of the homeless.
Margie DeNeef Slute, one of the organizers the Coldest Night of the Year Walk, held Saturday, Feb. 25, raised funds in the amount of $35,485, as of Monday morning.
“We’re thrilled!” DeNeef wrote in an email. “And the numbers are not total, as we still have money to input in to the system for those that didn’t submit their money on line, so our numbers will continue to grow.”
The Coldest Night of the Year Walk was put on by the Homeless Outreach Program of Community Connections Society of Southeast B.C., under the mandate of B.C. Housing. Participants in teams walked routes of two kilometres, five kilometres, starting at Mount Baker Secondary School, and hitting rest stops along the way — Tim Horton’s and Hot Shots — before concluding at Community Connections, where the Heid-Out was serving bowls of hot soup.
DeNeef said at least 170 walkers came out, supported by more than 70 volunteers. “We had 29 teams of all ages,” she wrote. “It was a great, fun family event enjoyed by all. The best part over the evening was the energy, laughter, and participants and volunteers talking about next year with enthusiasm. We are proud of our efforts and truly proud of the support in the community.
“Our rest stop sponsors, Tim Hortons, and Hot Shots, did a bang up job, everyone was thrilled with the goodies. And they raved about the soups and rolls and cookies provided by the Heid-Out Restaurant team in the comfort of the Community Connections Center, perfect venue for the finish.”
DeNeef said organizers are very thankful for all the corporate support in monetary and-in kind donations, “and the support from the media in bringing awareness has been ten-fold.”
The money raised will go to help fund support services for the homeless.
Tracy Pound and Erin Pan, with the Homeless Outreach Progam, said the mission of the Program is two-fold with homeless outreach services and a homeless prevention services.
People who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness can apply for subsidies, about $10,000 a month for what is intended to be a temporary solution-based subsidy to help with an emergency situation such as an eviction.
Clients run anywhere from youth to seniors, the oldest one being 89 years old, according to Pound.
“Unfortunately we are seeing a trend in individuals 55 and older, which make up 25 per cent of the population in which we serve, so that’s a sad thing in that we’re seeing that statistic increase,” Pound said recently, at a presentation before the Regional District of East Kootenay board.
“We do end up getting a lot of referrals from outlying communities, so we get referrals from the Elk Valley, from Invermere, Radium, we get referrals from Creston…
“The problem is that homelessness affects all of those communities and that many of those communities don’t have the resources that Cranbrook does, so we get a lot of referrals.”
In the 2016 calendar year, Pan says Cranbrook has 111 clients who are directly homeless, but that number could be higher as it doesn’t factor in family members, wives and children.
Over the last 12 months, there have been 2017 fresh faces who have made contact with the Homeless Outreach Program.
Homelessness comes in different forms with different stereotypes, said Pound.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize that when they hear homelessness, they think about the individuals who are absolutely homeless and on the street, but homelessness or people at risk of homelessness affects a broad range of peoples, so the issues that impact people are things like job loss.
“If someone loses their job, if they don’t have any money coming in, if they’re not eligible for EI or EI runs out and they can’t get another job, that’s an issue.
We know that unemployment in this area tends to be high, many of the jobs are part time or they are in a lower paying field, so it’s tough for people to live with the cost of living.”
A sudden illness, such as cancer, the death of a loved one, and fixed incomes for seniors with an ever-rising cost of living can also be a catalyst for homelessness.
Part of what makes the program effective is that Pound and Pan can provide referrals to other agencies that can also provide additional services. Last year, the program had over 1,000 referrals to other agencies and 357 appointments with other agencies to help solve outstanding issues with clients.
With files from Trevor Crawley