EDITORIAL: Connect with Victoria’s homeless community on the Coldest Night of the Year

Our Place taking part in national event for the first time

Imagine what it would be like to spend a night outdoors during one of the coldest stretches of winter in Victoria.

Our Place and other downtown service providers work regularly to give comfort and offer alternatives to people in that situation during winter and and throughout the year. This Friday, Our Place is inviting the public to an information session (4 p.m. in the chapel at 919 Pandora Ave.) about a unique event that will give people a taste of what it’s like to not have a roof over one’s head.

The Coldest Night of the Year happens the evening of Feb. 24 and is part of Canada’s National Walk for Homelessness. People are encouraged to make teams with family and friends for this fundraiser, which Our Place is taking part in for the first time.

Participants can take their pick of distance, two, five or 10 kilometres. For those who sleep rough outdoors, those kinds of numbers are typical in the overnight hours: many sleep during the day when more people are around, as a way to avoid sleeping overnight when the risk to their personal safety, or of losing belongings, is greater.

Opportunities will exist on the evening of the walks for participants to connect with members of the homeless community who stand to benefit from funds raised.

Our Place executive director Don Evans, along with his staff and other Extreme Weather Protocol shelter workers around downtown Victoria, know that despite best efforts to gather people in who might otherwise sleep outdoors, some individuals fall through the cracks. While some of those folks have personal issues that make staying inside in close proximity to others a serious challenge, most would appreciate a warm, safe place to sleep rather than braving the cold.

So give some thought over the holiday season to participating in this event, maybe when you’re snug and cozy at home some cold evening. Walking a kilometre in a homeless person’s shoes might be a good reminder why it’s important to support such causes.

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