Coun. Eleanor Gattafoni Robinson says she’d sleep under the bridge once a week if it helps raise awareness about homelessness in Greater Trail and help house those in need.
For a second year the Trail councillor slept outside for the Coins for Change event, and raised $820 for the Getting to Home program.
“The forefront of homelessness is gaining speed and I absolutely believe people are realizing we have this concern,” she said. “And I think we should take a good look at ourselves and say how fortunate we really are to have what we have.”
Almost $11,000 was raised during the Sept. 18 event that had 28 people from social and outreach workers, elected officials and the federal Liberal candidate (Connie Denesiuk), sleeping side-by-side with individuals who’ve experienced homelessness firsthand.
Coins for Change was initiated by Career Development Services (CDS), a Trail group that began the local homelessness project three years ago in partnership with the Skills Centre.
“The Coins for Change event was great,” said two-year organizer Sheila Adcock, CDS’ program coordinator. “Some donations are still coming in and we have heard lots of positive feedback about the event and the information we shared with the community.”
Almost 250 people have found housing since the program first launched, she explained, clarifying that Getting to Home is not for everyone.
“This is where we need to be clear,” Adcock said. “We are not a rental agency, we don’t just find people places to rent. This is not for anyone that needs to look for an apartment,” she added. “It’s for people who really need help walking through the process and setting up safety nets for themselves.”
Charitable donations can be made to the non-profit Getting to Home program all year. For more information contact CDS at 364.1104 or visit the service office at 1565 Bay Avenue in downtown Trail.
After last year’s inaugural Trail event, Adcock reached out to surrounding municipalities, asking them to join the cause.
Castlegar jumped on board and held its first Coins for Change event Sept. 19, with 10 people raising $8,000 after sleeping outside at the downtown CPR Station Museum.
All proceeds support the Castlegar food bank and help pay rent for the city’s year round five-bed emergency shelter.
“It was really well received and we will absolutely do this again next year,” Castlegar Coun. Deb McIntosh told the Trail Times. “We had such a huge response from the community. They want it to be a bigger and longer event and make it more focused on raising awareness.”
The province proclaimed Oct. 11 to Oct. 17 as Homelessness Action Week, and a time to raise awareness and acknowledge the work done by individuals and organizations to help end homelessness in B.C.
“Sheila (Adcock) and her staff should be thanked for doing what they do and bringing this to the forefront in our community,” said Gattafoni Robinson. “It brings into perspective what homelessness is and the affect it has on a human being.”
While she’s grateful to all who donated, Gattafoni Robinson was quick to point out that sleeping outside for one night was quite cozy compared to the real life homeless experience.
“We had the warmth of the fire and blankets,” she explained. “Homeless people don’t have those luxuries, those were comforts we were lucky to have that night.”