AMHERST, N.S. – You may not see them, or notice them on your travels around the community, but there are homeless people living on the streets of Amherst or surfing from couch to couch seeking shelter from friends or family.
It’s something the Cumberland YMCA wants to raise awareness about while raising money in support of its homelessness support and outreach program.
“It’s a fundraiser for our homeless support program, but it’s also about raising awareness for those who don’t have a place to live or are living in poverty in our community,” the YMCA’s development manager Jeff MacNeil said.
On Feb. 23, people are being invited to participate in the Coldest Night of the Year, a family-friendly national walk-a-thon that helps raise money for charities that serve the hungry, homeless and hurting people in the community.
“Late February is picked because it’s usually the coldest part of the year and the goal is to simulate the conditions that someone who is homeless would have to endure,” MacNeil said. “While we will all do the walk and then go home to our nice warm homes, they can’t.”
All the money raised stays in the community in support of the homeless outreach program.
Teams of between four and 10 people will walk a five-kilometre course that evening before returning back to the YMCA for refreshments.
Each team’s goal is $1,500 – or $150 per person or $75 per youth (those ages zero to 10 can participate for free). The goal for the walk in Amherst in $20,000.
Each participate will receive a Coldest Night of the Year toque.
People can register at cnoy.org – the website for the Coldest Night of the Year program.
MacNeil said five teams have already registered. He said it would be ideal to have at least 20 teams registered.
“The money raised would mean we would have more funds to help because now we’re limited in the scope of what we can do,” Alison Lair, the YMCA’s homelessness support and outreach coordinator, said.
Lair said so far this year she has helped out 53 people who were either facing eviction or homeless. That’s on top of more than 100 people she has advocated for or received calls for assistance for.
Television may portray homeless people as those living on the street, but there are many more facets to thee issue.
She estimates as many of 15 per cent of people in rural communities are considered homeless because they don’t live under a roof over the heads. That includes people who move from place to place or stay with family because they have no where else to go.