Coins for Change

Coins for Change – Communities and candidates commit to spending night under the bridge

Event on Sept. 18 raises awareness about homelessness in Greater Trail

Coins for Change is a bi-city challenge this year after Castlegar joined the drive to end homelessness in the region.

Following the Sept. 18 event in Trail, Castlegar Coun. Deb McIntosh confirmed a similar gathering is planned in Castlegar the next day, though details haven’t been released.

Locally, Rossland, Montrose and Trail officials have committed to the awareness and fundraising campaign that asks politicians, service groups, and anyone else in the area to experience homelessness firsthand by sleeping under the Victoria Street Bridge.

Those participating will be asked to build shelters out of boxes, or pitch a tent and sleep outdoors in the makeshift refuge from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m. and all money pledged will support the Getting to Home project.

“It’s not just about spending the night,” says organizer Sheila Adcock, from Career Development Services (CDS). “It’s about gathering pledges.

“And if you can’t spend the night, but really believe in this cause, then charitable donations can be dropped off.”

Liberal MP candidate Connie Denesiuk and NDP MP candidate Richard Cannings have committed to the cause, the Salvation Army will provide food and beverages, and Trail businesses have donated cash or contributed gift certificates to be given out during the night.

“A lot of people are only a paycheque or two away from homelessness,” said Adcock.

“The perception is ‘those’ people. But the stories we could tell, because against all odds, this person is standing in front of me able to ask for help, when I’d be a puddle on the floor.”

Single mothers, seniors on the verge of losing housing, youth transitioning out of foster care, brain injury clients and people struggling with mental health or drug and alcohol issues have all found housing through “The Homeless are Here if You Choose to Look” project.

Factors like an outstanding power bill or barriers to an an application with the Ministry of Social Development, are other ways an individual may wind up on the street.

Immediate needs such as food and a safe place are first addressed, explained Adcock.

Then program facilitators look at what is standing in the way of the person securing housing.

“They might just need a little bit of a hand up, not a hand out,” says Adcock. “And they may need to be walked through the process, so that’s what the facilitator does. We try and set them up to succeed.”

Last fall’s inaugural event raised about $8,000 for Getting to Home, which is a non-profit collaboration between the Greater Trail Skills Centre and CDS.

Almost 250 people have found housing since the program launched three years ago, says Adcock, clarifying that Getting to Home is not for everyone.

“This is where we need to be clear,” she explained. “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. It’s for people who really need help walking through the process and setting up safety nets for themselves.”

Often that includes an element of advocacy such as providing a phone or computer and help with applying for ministry assistance.

“We don’t receive advocacy funding, that’s not our mandate,” said Adcock, mentioning Advocacy Centre staff from Nelson visit Trail FAIR for matters like filing reconsideration for assistance. “But if it’s a one off we will walk across the street to help the person. Many of the individuals don’t have a phone to call the 1-800 ministry number, so they can come here to phone or fax, there’s no issue with that.”

For information, to donate and to sign up for the event, contact CDS at 364.1104 or visit the service’s office at 1565 Bay Avenue in downtown Trail.

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