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Roots for Youth planning Coldest Night walk

Stacey Dlamini, executive director of Pictou County Roots for Youth, and Jan Keefe are looking forward to this year's Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser, which will raise money to help the local youth homeless shelter.
Stacey Dlamini, executive director of Pictou County Roots for Youth, and Jan Keefe are looking forward to this year's Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser, which will raise money to help the local youth homeless shelter. - Adam MacInnis

While many people view homelessness as an urban problem, Stacy Dlamini, program director of Pictou County Roots for Youth, says the issue is much more widespread.

"A lot of people aren't aware that 40 per cent of all homeless Canadians are in rural communities," Dlamini said. "We think of it as primarily an urban issue, but it's very much a rural issue as well. The difference is it's not in your face. We don't have people sleeping on park benches here."

How it presents itself is often more silent but equally as dangerous with youth in particular often putting themselves in unsafe situations by staying with people out of necessity.

"It's not a situation where you are able to negotiate your own safety," she said.

That's where organizations like Roots for Youth come in. The non-profit offers housing and support to youth to help them find safe housing. To help them achieve their goals the group will once again be taking part in Coldest Night of the Year, a national fundraising effort to help address homelessness.

Last year Roots for Youth was able to raise $43,000 from the fundraiser, to help cover operational costs of the shelter.

This year they hope to match that amount.

"The other benefit to it is besides just helping us do what we do is it also creates awareness in our community about the issue of homelessness and in particular rural homelessness."

Coldest Night of the Year will be held Feb. 24, coinciding with what is typically the coldest time of year.

"It's essentially a walk-a-thon," Dlamini said. "There are 2 km, 5 km and 10 km options for walkers."

Leading up to the event teams ask for support and sponsorship from their family members and friends and they try to raise money for the cause.

Anyone who wants to take part can register a team or as an individual at CNOY.org and then selecting the New Glasgow walk.

Participants are required to each raise $25 for a registration fee. Those who register after Feb. 19 will be required to pay a registration fee of $40. Dlamini explained the reason for this is that nationally the organizers are trying to encourage people to register early to help with planning and execution of the walk and to make sure they are able to cover their cost of putting it on.

Last year about 300 people took part.

"I think what's surprising to a lot of people is how much fun it is. It really is a very feel-good community event," she said. There's a lot of families and babies in strollers. There are elderly people. There's a great vibe. People feel like theyre contributing to local community change and indeed they are."

The day of the walk, Feb. 24, there will be a quick kick-off at 5 p.m. at Christian Fellowship Church at 489 Abercrombie Rd. in New Glasgow with the walk starting at 5:15. Afterward participants can return to Christian Fellowship Church for a meal which Dlamini said is a great chance to continue conversations people may have started while on the walk.

For more information about the walk people can call the Roots house at 902-695-3241. Dlamini said they will also be reaching out to local businesses and organizations for sponsorship of the event.

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