The community outpouring in support of a fundraiser to end homelessness in Greater Trail has been encouraging.
But local organizers are hoping more people will commit to sleeping one night under the Trail bridge to raise funds that will sustain the non-profit service into next year.
Coins for Change is an awareness and fundraising campaign slated for Sept. 12 that asks local officials, service groups, first responders and anyone else to experience homelessness firsthand by spending the night under the Victoria Street Bridge.
“By staying under the bridge for one night doesn’t mean we know what it’s like to be homeless,” said Sheila Adcock from the Career Development Services (CDS).
“But it’s a perfect venue to raise awareness and something we would like to do year after year.”
The challenge builds on a joint venture between the Skills Centre and CDS called Getting to Home, which is an initiative that launched two years ago with a goal to end homelessness in Greater Trail.
With summer vacations almost over, CDS’ event planners are out-and-about in an effort to have more groups join the cause.
Information packages have been hand delivered to various Teck social clubs, clinics, the hospital and businesses, said Adcock.
“I think a lot of people are away on holidays and hard to reach right now,” said Adcock. “But I’m hoping they’ll take a look at what we are doing and give some confirmation that they will be here that night.”
If pitching a tent or building a makeshift shelter out of boxes isn’t in the cards, Adcock said donations can be brought to the site that evening or dropped off at the service’s downtown office.
She said there’s been many positive comments and pledges from the community to CDS staff members who are canvassing their neighbourhoods.
“We are hoping to have businesses and individuals challenge others, such as ball and hockey teams,” noted Adcock. “But there’s not much of a commitment to that yet.”
Even though reaching certain sectors of the community has been difficult, Adcock remains hopeful that she will soon hear that local police, fire department and ambulance services are committed to joining in to spend a night under the Trail bridge.
So far, Montrose council and the Salvation Army Family Services are taking pledges and Trail Coun. Eleanor Gattafoni Robinson is committed to zipping up a sleeping bag for the 12-hour event that begins at 8 p.m. that Friday night.
“I’ve already received some pledges so if anyone wants to contribute you know where to find me,” said the Trail councillor. “But I’m going to start pounding the pavement this week.”
Though adult responses have been limited to date, some of the community’s youngest members have been on board from the start.
When Adcock’s grandson heard of the event he said, “everyone should have a home, grandma.”
Now he and his friends are collecting pop cans and bottles to cash in and make a Coins for Change donation that night.
Other youngsters working toward the cause are the Warfield Scouts, and the group is currently taking pledges before sleeping under the stars in the village Sept. 12.
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.
Program provides life-changing help
For one new member of the Trail community, the Coins for Change fundraiser literally hits close to home.
The Getting to Home program helped Shawn Geist through a troubled time in his life when he had no hope and no where to go.
Geist was just out of his teens, addicted to drugs, in trouble with law enforcement and sleeping on the streets of Nelson.
He needed to get away from that city to get his life back on track, so he moved to Trail but didn’t have a plan in place.
Once he walked through the doors of CDS and asked for help, he’s never looked back.
“I didn’t have a place to live and I needed help,” said Geist from his first phone that was hooked up in his home Thursday afternoon.
“They moved me into a house, helped me maintain it and made sure I wasn’t back on the streets.”
Geist has a CDS outreach worker dedicated to helping him learn how to make ends meet on a day-to-day basis and to provide assistance with moving forward into a bright future.
Now sober with a secure roof over his head and working part time, he is determined to earn his high school diploma and is already thinking about post secondary education.
“When I was homeless and on a lot of drugs I didn’t care about myself or who I hung out with,” recalled Geist. “Now I’m happy and proud of where I am. I have food in my house, a great girlfriend and a great life.
“The resources are here in Trail,” he added.
“The best thing you can do is ask for help.”