Even if you can’t sleep under the bridge, you can still help the Coins for Change cause by making a pledge to someone who will.
This is the third year for “Coins,” an awareness and fundraising campaign about homelessness that asks local officials and community members to sleep under the Victoria Street Bridge for one night – the date this year is Sept. 9 beginning at 8 p.m.
This is also the third year that Eleanor Gattafoni Robinson will put on her woollies and sleep outside. The longtime city councillor and volunteer says one night spent in the elements is only a small gesture, but still an eye-opener to the multi-faceted state of homelessness both locally and afar.
“I think we all should be taking a share in the fact that there is homelessness, admit it and do something about it,” she shared. “If I had to sleep under the bridge more than once a year for homelessness I would do it – it’s an issue not just for Trail, it’s all over, and it’s a concern.”
All money pledged will support “Getting to Home,” a local homelessness action project that launched in 2012.
In January that year, CDS partnered with the Greater Trail Community Skills Centre to create a complementary project that sought viable and sustainable solutions for housing while it addressed homelessness and “relative” homelessness in the Greater Trail community.
More than $20,000 has been raised for “Getting to Home” since the first Coins for Change event – in that time “Coins” funds have provided direct homeless supports to 304 adults and 97 children.
The goal this year is to raise $15,000, so organizers from Career Development Services (CDS) and Gattafoni Robinson are leaving no stone unturned getting word out to the community.
The Trail official has been pounding the pavement with the “Coins” message, her pledge sheets are available at businesses throughout downtown Trail, including the Trail Times.
“I think everybody should be taking a deep breath and really look at what homelessness is,” she said. “And if somebody slept under the bridge, it’s only a simple act, let alone doing it everyday of their life. For me staying there for the duration really puts into perspective what homelessness is all about, it really does.”
CDS’ Sheila Adcock reminds the community that pledges can be dropped off the night-of or at the service’s office at 1565 Bay Ave. in downtown Trail.
“Some people think, ‘well I am not able to sleep under the bridge all night, so that leaves me out,’” said Adcock. “We need to get the message out that even if you cannot “sleep” under the bridge, you can still get pledges and drop them off that night or anytime at CDS.”
Over the past two years, money raised through the Coins campaign has included, but is not limited to, assessing housing needs, developing a plan, connecting individuals with other community supports, assisting with gathering the household goods once housing is found, completing forms, problem solving and identifying health and safety needs.
Adcock says the number of people needing help isn’t necessarily growing, but Getting to Home support is about more than four walls and a roof.
“I think the numbers are always pretty consistent,” she said. “But we have been able to identify a specific population that will always struggle with typical housing options and will require ongoing specialized community housing options and this is where we will be focusing our energy over the next year.”
Some individuals continue to struggle to maintain their housing due to a number of ongoing challenges they face, Adcock added.
“These individuals require specialized ongoing supports to be set up to succeed in living independently.”
Individuals with a diagnosis of FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and/or mental health and addictions issues struggle to complete daily living activities necessary to increase their ability to live independently.
“They are also very vulnerable to be taken advantage of and require supports ongoing,” said Adcock. “Over the next year CDS is committed to identifying the specific needs and possible community partners needed to develop some different types of housing options.”