Helping those experiencing homelessness to find and maintain their housing is a significant undertaking, and staff and volunteers at the Island Crisis Care Society have been up to the task for many years.
In Oceanside, a major factor helping them provide supports to that end has been the Coldest Night of the Year event, happening for a sixth year in Parksville on Feb. 22 as part of the national walk-a-thon and community fundraiser.
A key member of Oceanside’s Homelessness Outreach Support Team (HOST), the Island Crisis Care Society uses the funds raised to help residents find affordable housing – more than 50 have been housed since 2015. It also works with individuals to secure rent subsidies and provides seven-day-a-week supports to help them maintain their housing and be responsible tenants. On weekends, Society staff do outreach, ranging from taking people shopping to helping with meal planning or budgeting.
Coldest Night funds critical to local programs
Island Crisis Care and the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness successfully applied for $50,000 in federal funding to start HOST in 2014. That application was unsuccessful the following year, and since then the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser has been critical to continuing the Team’s work, says Violet Hayes, the Society’s executive director. “Today it accounts for about 80 per cent of our operating funding for the year,” she says.
Hear moving stories, walk and share a meal
Everyone starts the walk together, after hearing from people whose lives have changed with help from HOST. You’ll also see some of the Society’s clients out on the road serving as route marshals. Afterward, you’ll sit down and share a meal – soup kitchen style – with your fellow walkers and volunteers.
“The whole idea behind the night is to represent what it might be like being out in the cold at night, going to a soup kitchen and receiving the kindness of others,” Hayes says. Clients may also be available to chat, allowing walk participants to find out more about how HOST helps in the Oceanside community. “There’s a great sense of camaraderie over having a purpose for what you’re doing. It’s an amazing experience!”
Join a team, walk with family or coworkers or donate
Coldest Night of the Year features three routes: two, five or 10 kilometres. And signing up is easy! Just visit cnoy.org to find out all the ways you can get involved in Oceanside. Or you can call direct toll free 1-877-743-3413. All funds raised locally stay within the Oceanside community. You can also keep tabs on the latest news on the Society’s Facebook or Instagram pages.