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Pictou County youth homeless shelter hopes for strong response to fundraising event

Stacey Dlamini said they’ve set a goal of raising $50,000 at this year’s Coldest Night of the Year event which will be held in Pictou County on Feb. 23, 2019. To help kick off the campaign, Roots for Youth took part in the New Glasgow Christmas Parade on Dec. 10.
Stacey Dlamini said they’ve set a goal of raising $50,000 at this year’s Coldest Night of the Year event which will be held in Pictou County on Feb. 23, 2019. To help kick off the campaign, Roots for Youth took part in the New Glasgow Christmas Parade on Dec. 10. - Adam MacInnis

NEW GLASGOW, N.S. - With much of the county in the dark, Stacey Dlamini drove from Pictou to Roots for Youth in New Glasgow, where the power had just been restored.

Quickly, the house was filling with youth Nov. 29, when power outages were wreaking havoc. Whether it’s stormy or clear skies, Roots for Youth has become a shelter that young people depend on in Pictou County. It offers emergency shelter for people between the ages of 16 and 24 as well as daily drop-in sessions from 4:30 to 8 p.m. It’s a place they can get a meal, go online, do laundry for free, and find a supportive adult to talk to.  

A young woman was enjoying a hot cup of coffee during the storm. She says without Roots for Youth she wouldn’t be in school right now and would more than likely be on the streets. Instead she’s nearing completion of her Grade 12 year with good marks and a brighter future. 

“Roots has helped me through a lot," she said, asking her name not be used. “I’ve been here twice, and they’ve helped me both times. If they weren’t here, I would have lived on the streets.” 

She’s just one of the many success stories Roots for Youth has had in recent years. In 2018, executive director Stacey Dlamini said they’ve helped 27 young people end their homelessness. For some it’s meant repairing relationships with their families and going home. Others have found apartments; some have found another safe adult they could stay with.

On a regular basis the four-bed shelter has two or three people staying every night. At times they’ve had as many as five. The average stay is about 10 weeks and during that time, Dlamini said youth workers try to connect the young people with services that can help them best.

Success looks different for each individual, she said. For some it’s getting help with a mental health issue. For others it’s finding a job or going back to school.

“If people are making progress against their stated goals, we consider that success,” she said.

There are times, things don’t work out the way Dlamini hopes. Some youth break the rules and they have to sever ties with them. But she said it’s the successes – like the young woman who is doing well in school now – that make them proud.

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None of the work accomplished by Roots for Youth would be possible, if it weren’t for contributions from the community.

Dlamini hopes people will support the work of Roots for Youth by registering to take part in the Coldest Night of the Year walk, being held in New Glasgow on Feb. 23, 2019. The walk begins and ends at Christian Fellowship Church on Abercrombie Road.

The goal this year is to raise $50,000, which, while a lot, is not a great deal off the $46,000 raised during last year’s event. People can sign up to take part at www.CNOY.org/NewGlasgow

“This fundraiser is really critical for us as Roots for Youth. It’s the single biggest fundraiser we undertake during the year,” Dlamini said. “If it’s successful, as it has been for the last two years, it carries us through a significant portion of the year.”

She believes it’s also a chance to reconnect with people in Pictou County, and reinforce with them the work they do.

“It gives us a chance to remind the community of our story and to keep telling our story,” she said.

Last year more than 300 walkers took part, and Dlamini hopes they’ll see a strong turnout this year. She particularly encourages companies that are looking for something for their employees to do together, outside the office, to consider taking part. 

“It’s a fun event. It’s very family friendly.”

The day of the event, registration will begin at 4 p.m. with opening ceremonies at 5 p.m. followed by the walk kickoff at 5:15 p.m. There will be 2-km, 5-km and 10-km routes participants can choose from.

As in the past, a hot meal will be served at Christian Fellowship Church following the walk.  

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