If the harsh weather this winter has done anything, it’s proven a reminder that there are still many people in Burnaby who don’t have place to call home.
For the groups closest to the issue of homelessness, there isn’t a more poignant time for Burnaby’s first Coldest Night of the Year Walk.
The Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby and Burnaby Community Services are teaming up to host the walk, set for Feb. 25.
The walk, which has events across the nation and region, is intended to raise money and awareness for homelessness in the community.
Wanda Mulholland, coordinator for the Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby, said the organization has been interested in the walk for a long time, but this year is the first time Burnaby is able to host an event.
“We are so concerned about people in Burnaby that are living without housing and without access to basic necessities, and to raise the awareness of that is important in as many ways as possible,” she told the NOW. “The situation in Burnaby is of great concern, I can’t think of a better time to host this walk and provide an opportunity for people to show their support.”
While the weather has warmed recently, the number of people using the extreme weather shelter program this year in Burnaby compared to recent years has nearly doubled.
By early January, the shelter was already open 33 nights, offering 358 stays, compared to the 2015/16 season, where there were a total of 191 stays.
The goal of the walk is to raise $32,000, which will help provide programs, services and resources to people in Burnaby experiencing homelessness, hunger and poverty.
So far, there are 10 teams signed up for the Burnaby walk. Mulholland said the group is hoping for about 20 to 25 teams in the end.
She said as long as the issue remains, she’s hoping the walk will continue to grow.
“This is a very serious issue and a serious problem that is impacting many people,” Mulholland said, adding politicians from all levels have been invited to take part. “Every opportunity we can to bring that to light, we want to be able to embark on that.”
Besides supporting programs, Stephen D’Souza, the executive director of Burnaby Community Services, said the walk is important because it engages people in peer-to-peer fundraising and raises awareness of the homelessness and housing issues in the community.
“And that there are people really struggling in our community to stay in their homes and there are people who are struggling who don’t have homes and they’re looking for support,” he said.
D’Souza noted the walk is getting support from a broad section of the community, including individuals, corporations and faith-based groups.
“It really leads to us seeing how this is an issue that crosses our community; an issue that people care about and are looking at ways to contribute to finding solutions to,” he said.
The walk, which offers a two, five, or 10-kilometre option, will start and finish at the Salvation Army, 6124 Nelson Ave.
For more information go to canada.cnoy.org.