Saturday may have been the warmest night of the week but it was still dangerously cold for anyone forced to sleep outside and that was obvious to people who took to the street for the Coldest Night of the Week fundraiser walk.
“We have to talk about and act on this issue between events like this,” Mayor Cam Guthrie told people gathered in the Guelph Armoury Saturday afternoon. “We have to stop the stigma of homelessness and remember these people are our neighbours. They are part of our community.”
His words were echoed by Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner and MP Lloyd Longfield.
“Every year this event gets bigger and it reflects what is happening across Canada,” said Longfield. “We have been able to decrease chronic homelessness across the country by 29 per cent in a year and our goal is to reduce homelessness to zero. So, keep walking and one day we will be walking to celebrate zero homelessness.”
It is the seventh year that Hope House has organized the Coldest Night of the Year campaign in Guelph and before anyone even started walking this year they had surpassed the amount they raised last year.
“We have definitely surpassed what we raised last year, which was a very impressive $86,000,” said event director Sean Yo. “We raised the bar because unfortunately the need in our community isn’t going away and Hope House is doing such great work and we want to be able to help as many people in need in our community as possible.”
Nearly 60 volunteers and more than 340 people from 47 teams took part this year and nearly every team surpassed their fundraising goal. The overall fundraising target was $95,000 and they raised $96,280, 101 per cent of their goal.
Nationally they raised more than $5.7 million.
“Coldest Night of the Year is the largest charity walk to benefit the homeless across Canada,” said Yo. “More than 40 cities from coast to coast to coast take part and it is really amazing that Guelph is one of them.”
Walkers met at the Guelph Armoury between 4 and 5 p.m. to register then set out on three separate routes that covered, 2km, 5km and 10km. The finish line was at Hope House where people could grab a bite, relax and talk about their experience.
“The goal of the walk is twofold,” said Jaya James, executive director of Hope House. “One, we want to demonstrate in our community that every person matters and everyone’s life experience matters so, we get out on the street and experience for a very short little window what it is like to have to keep walking. The other goal is to raise funds so we can keep the door open at Hope House so we can continue to offer immediate relief services and ongoing support.”
Yo said the success of the campaign reflects the generous nature of Guelph as a community.
“We know there is a lot of financial hardship out there,” said Yo. “We know that getting stable employment with a living wage is more challenging than ever. We also know that this is a very caring community and it is so heart warming to see the people of Guelph step up in a situation where everyone is feeling the pinch. It shows that we don’t just care about ourselves but the whole community as well.”