It was snowing, windy, and freezing cold. But despite the poor weather – and perhaps inspired by it – Coldest Night of the Year 2023 was a huge success in Parksville Qualicum Beach.
Shattering all previous records in both communities, the event raised awareness and unprecedented levels of funding for Island Crisis Care Society (ICCS) programs that are focused on people who have experienced homelessness and precarious housing.
The Parksville Qualicum Beach event raised reached nearly $85,000, which is 170 per cent of last year’s achievement and this year’s goal, with 32 teams and 258 walkers registered, according to a news release by ICCS.
Another $111,523 was raised by the Coldest Night walk in Nanaimo, with funds still rolling in for both locations at the time of writing. Both walks were held in support of Island Crisis Care Society.
Despite inclement weather, huge numbers of walkers gathered at both events, braving the snow and chilly wind to walk for the cause.
“Our community recognized the overwhelming issue of homelessness and got behind the initiative more than ever this year” said Sara Schreider, coordinator of the Parksville CNOY event, citing teamwork and community spirit as the drivers behind the event’s success.
Schreider was joined in the event by MLA Adam Walker, MP Gord Johns, Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek, Parksville City Councillors Mary Beil, Amit Gaur, Joel Grenz and Sean Wood, and Lead Sponsor Daniel Hutchins of Mainroad Mid Island.
The walk was led off in the blustery snow by ICCS Executive Director Violet Hayes.
Funds will go directly to support ICCS programming in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area, including client support programming at Orca Place and Hirst House, but most particularly to the client-centered Oceanside Outreach programming, which gives assistance to people who need check-ins and support to maintain their housing.
Support is also given to people in crisis, in conjunction with the Oceanside Homelessness Outreach Support Team, responding to the real needs of people in the community, as they occur.
CNOY is an opportunity for regular people in the community to make an impact, says Elspeth Erickson, CNOY Nanaimo Event Director.
“The issue of homelessness is very real in our community – and it can sometimes seem overwhelming,” said Erickson. “People want to make a difference, but don’t know how to do it. Participating in CNOY is the chance for normal people – people like you and me – to step up and do something small and tangible which can contribute to positive change.”
In every community that participates in a Coldest Night event, the coordination is spearheaded by one local agency that works in support of people who have experienced homelessness.
ICCS has had the honour to take on that role for the past nine years in Parksville Qualicum Beach. ICCS has been working in the support sector in Nanaimo and Parksville Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island for 33 years, delivering housing and outreach programs for people who have experienced homelessness or precarious housing, and often concurrent substance use and mental health challenges.
The current spectrum of ICCS programming includes 13 programs across eight sites addressing the needs of up to 250 individuals a day who have experienced or are at risk of homelessness.
It is still possible to donate to CNOY until the end of March. Go to https://cnoy.org/oceanside to support the community.
— NEWS Staff, submitted