For one night on Feb. 23, “Coldest Night of the Year” walkers will head out into the February chill, getting a short glimpse of what homeless people have to endure during the winter months.
More than $4,000 has been raised in Terrace with 57 people signed up to participate in the annual nation-wide fundraiser that raises money to help those living on the streets. The amount is 17 per cent of their $25,000 goal.
“We’ve still got a ways to go and we’ve got a short amount of time to do it,” says Hilary Lightening, fundraising campaign coordinator. “We could use more participants and we’re really looking for some sponsors right now.”
Registration for this year’s walk begins at the Ksan House (4838 Lazelle Ave.) at 4 p.m. Feb. 23 and will begin after 5 p.m. shortly after the opening ceremony. There are options for two-kilometre, five-kilometre, and 10-kilometre routes, with all routes ending around 8 p.m. back at the start.
The money helps to keep the doors open during the day for Ksan Society’s Turning Points Housing Connections emergency shelter at 4444 Lazelle Ave.
Since it opened nearly two years ago, the shelter has regularly housed on average 26 people per night, despite having only 20 beds available. Nobody is turned away, Lightening says.
“It’s an emergency shelter for those who are experiencing homelessness and they have nowhere else to go, the beds are always used at capacity, and it’s a very well-used facility,” Lightening says.
The need often exceeds the funding available, and the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser helps to support those who are vulnerable. Lightening says several people staying at the shelter have said it is an important refuge for them, especially over the winter months.
“A lot of people sometimes lose their compassion, and sometimes don’t think about the different reasons why people are homeless. A lot of them are unresolved trauma, some people have mental health issues and they don’t have support…a lot of times it has to do with this gap in their income versus the cost of living in our community, because there is no affordable housing right now.”
Last week, the shelter saw one of their highest counts this year — with 40 people seeking shelter from the freezing temperatures.
“Everybody who is experiencing homelessness is somebody’s friend, somebody’s cousin, somebody’s son, daughter — you may know someone living on the streets right now, and they deserve our help.”
In 2017, the fundraising walk raised $10,240 for Turning Points Housing Connections. The walk was organized in 2019 after a hiatus last year when staffing availability prevented the Ksan Society from putting the fundraiser together.
More information and to donate, visit Ksan Society’s table at the Skeena Mall on Feb. 16. Register for the walk online at www.cnoy.org/location/terrace.