The Regina YWCA is highlighting the hidden side of homelessness with the ‘Coldest Night of the Year’ fundraiser walk downtown on Feb. 20.
“We will be raising awareness around family homelessness in the city and having people join us on a walk where they can get pledges from their family and friends to come out and walk a route through downtown Regina,” said Melissa Coomberdtsen, CEO of YWCA Regina.
The goal is to raise $20,000 and all the money will go towards supporting the YWCA women’s shelters and outreach programs.
When people think of homelessness, Coomberdtsen admits most people have an image of a man living on the streets, but she says the reality in Regina is more complex.
“We see that through things like the point in time count that just happened in our community where children and women and their families (face) a reality of living couch surfing, living in homes with way too many people, the hidden homelessness in our community, or through our violence shelters,” Coomberdtsen said.
The point in time homelessness count in May found that 36 per cent of the homeless people in Regina were children under 18, and 13 per cent of people surveyed that night had a total of 30 children with them.
The YWCA offers a total of 40 shelter spaces for women and children through My Aunt’s Place and the Isabel Johnson shelter. Coomberdtsen says they are full almost every night of the year. Since it opened in 2009, My Aunt’s Place has been at capacity serving about 200 children who come with their mothers each year.
“Last year we turned away over 200 women and families because we were full,” she said, noting that it’s the most difficult part of the job.
The Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser was hosted by Soul’s Harbour Rescue Mission last year, but this year the event has been turned over to the YWCA.
Coomberdtsen said she has already heard a lot of positive response from the community. She says it will be a fun event with hot chocolate and food and it will be over at 7 pm so it won’t be too late.
“It’s a chance for people to really get together and talk about some of the issues that are going on, and also our downtown community being able to help support an event like this is something I think is really important.”
She adds that she hopes the evening of Feb. 20 won’t actually be one of the coldest nights of the year. Last year it was -40 C, so her advice is to definitely bring warm clothes.
You can find more information about how to get involved and register online.