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Bracing the cold for homelessness

When it comes to the coldest night of the year, this winter has yielded plenty of options, but two local organizations are inviting Frederictonians to consider the cold from another perspective: How cold does it get when you are without a home?

The Coldest Night of the Year is an annual nationwide event that raises awareness and funds for homelessness-related projects. Participants collect monetary pledges and walk 2, 5 or 10 km around their city, with the concept in mind that, by experiencing the cold, they will gain empathy.

“As opposed to having an event in the middle of summer where we all go out in support of raising funds for homelessness, it’s to really give somebody the experience of what homelessness is like … it just really punctuates what it’s like to be out in those sorts of conditions,” said Faith McFarland with program development for John Howard Society in Fredericton, which is one of the organizations that will receive the collected funds.

This year marks Fredericton’s first in the event. All funds raised will go towards two local charities. One is Youth in Transition, a provider of shelters for youth aged 16-19. Originally only providing services to young women, the organization expanded their services last November to provide to male youth. Funds from The Coldest Night of the Year will allow them to keep expanding their services.

The second organization is the John Howard Society, which works with people who are at risk of offending. They also provide housing to people who are difficult to house, such as people living in poverty, the homeless population, and people with addictions and mental health issues. Proceeds from the Coldest Night will help the society obtain more housing units.

“Our fundraising goal for this year is $25,000 and we hope to make this an annual event every February,” McFarland said.

“We’re really hoping that change is a real thing, that the community is empowered to look at homelessness — not as something that’s a hopeless thing but that as a community is a very solvable thing — and that there’s real solutions when we look at poverty and homelessness and there’s real things we can do.”

The Coldest Night of the Year began in 2011. Now it occurs in 80 communities across Canada and to date has raised $4.9 million.

The walk in Fredericton will take place on Feb. 21 and will begin at St. Dunstan’s Parish. Doors open for registration at 4 p.m. Participants can register online.


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