“Coldest Night of the Year” raises close to $70,000 to help the homeless in Renfrew County
By Valeria Moreno, FCSRC Volunteer
A nation-wide homelessness campaign held its first local fundraising effort in Renfrew County on February 25th, and the outcome was more positive than expected. Around $70,000 was raised during the event, far higher than the $40,000 goal set for this first effort in the county. The event allowed participants – either individually or as a part of the 42 teams that were formed – to walk 2,5 or 10 km on prescribed routes in downtown Pembroke to get a hint of what it must feel to be homeless on a cold winter´s night.
The money will go towards helping two initiatives that assist homeless people in need within the county: Safe Shelter for Youth, led by Family and Children Services of Renfrew County, and The Grind Emergency Refuge, an initiative of The Grind Pembroke to support adults.
Safe Shelter for Youth started around 2010 by providing temporary accommodation to young adults from 16 to 21 years of age. The goal of the program is to stabilize youth who are having a rough time in their lives, often with very complex problems. The Grind Emergency Refuge opened for business in December, 2016. The three-bedroom facility offers shelter for up to four nights.
“Homeless clients are under a great deal of stress, so it is critical that they be provided with a protected place to stay while community health and social agencies work with them to find solutions to their issues. Before these programs began, there were no sheltering options for the homeless in Renfrew County other than a bus ticket to Ottawa or other major urban areas”, explained David Studham, chair of the Coldest Night of the Year Steering Committee.
Plans are already underway to hold another walk-a-thon in aid of the homeless next year to help provide more sustainable funding for Safe Shelter for Youth and The Grind Emergency Refuge. While emergency sheltering is now available in Renfrew County for youth and adults, the need for transitional housing for longer periods of time is being recognized as another service gap in the county.
“We are very conscious that short-term accommodations are only part of the solution in helping homeless youth and adults. We need to assess their needs and match them with health and social services available in the community. Longer-term housing, financial stability and other supports will help our clients stabilize their lives so that eventually they can participate as full community members, said David Studham. For Michael Dalton, Signs of Safety Project Supervisor of Family and Children Services of Renfrew County, the success of the Coldest Night of the Year event reflects the strength of Renfrew County community members, as they were able to come together to meet and support the needs of people living in their community. “Youth who are homeless or at risk of being homelessness are particularly vulnerable, so the contribution made by the many volunteers and participants will directly ensure that youth have the opportunity to be supported and sustained in their communities of origin. This will mean if you are from Renfrew you will be supported in Renfrew”, said Mr. Dalton. “This is significant as we believe that risk of direct harm increases for vulnerable youth who leave Renfrew County in a homeless situation to seek support in larger cities on our boarders”, he concluded.