Walk A Mile In Their Shoes

We all know that feeling. That hunker down, close your eyes against the snow, don’t breathe in too deeply or you’ll cough from the cold kind of feeling. Winter in Calgary. We boast that we’re tough, that we can withstand anything. We are, after all, Albertans. Forged in cold weather and an unpredictable mother nature.

Seven months out of the year, we bundle up, running as quickly as possible from one warm building to another, spending as little time as possible outside in the frigid Calgary weather. We run from our warm car, into our warm office building, back into our warm car and then scurry from the driveway into our warm home. The next day dawns, bright and chilly as ever and we repeat, asking ourselves when we’re due for another Chinook.

Tough right?

Or not.

There are those who endure the Calgary winter very differently. Those who line up at shelter doors in sub-zero weather, waiting to get in and claim their sleeping mat for the evening. Who wake up at 530am after very little sleep, get in line for showers with multiple others and very limited privacy. Those who truly walk the streets in Calgary winter, with perhaps a door frame to shield them from the wind and the occasional time they have enough funds to purchase a coffee to allow them a brief reprieve indoors. There are those with small children, hoping against hope that the donated winter clothing their little ones are wearing is enough to keep out the cold.

These are the Calgarians, those experiencing homelessness, that feel the true sting of our winters.

On February 20th, over 470 Calgarians will walk to raise funds for those truly subjected to our city’s winters. The Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) is Canada’s National Walk for Homelessness, a walk that raises funds for Canadian charities and projects who serve the thousands of Canadians experiencing homelessness. Each city hosts their own walk; Calgary’s Coldest Night walk will raise funds for three local projects: Acadia Place, Feed the Hungry and the Mustard Seed. So far in Calgary 88 teams, 1045 donors and 92 volunteers have come together to raise $125,000. While there is still work to be done, this incredible achievement is proof that, even in tough economic times, Calgarians will take a stand for its most vulnerable citizens.

KAIROS Calgary, a national organization that unites 130 congregations from eight Christian-based denominations that helps those in need, has been the foundational support behind the Calgary Homeless Foundation’s (CHF’s) Acadia Place, a 58 unit apartment complex that provides affordable housing for families at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness. Larry Pearce has been a member of KAIROS since 2007 and has seen the Acadia Place project grow since its original purchase by CHF in 2009. KAIROS Calgary’s goal is to fundraise enough to retire the mortgage on Acadia Place.

In support of Acadia Place and The Coldest Night of the Year, Larry will be walking for his third year in a row. “The thing about getting together with a group and seeing the companionship and energy of others on the team…you really get the feeling of being together and doing something important. Having three to four hundred people out doing the walk for the same cause is incredible and exciting. There is something special about all these people coming together to do this walk. This biggest thing is that you know what the funds are being raised for and the impact it can have. Raising funds for affordable housing is so important…having a safe, warm place for children has a huge impact on families.”

Larry will walk with a team that has fundraised in order to be a part of CNOY. One member in particular is eleven years old and has already raised over $1,000 himself alone by borrowing his grandmothers email list and kindly reminding her friends of those out there suffering Calgary’s winter on the streets. “This young walker has a built in concern about others. When his parents were volunteering in shelters, he would sit down and chat with all the people staying there. He sees people, not their situation.”

Many of us could stand to learn a thing or two from this young philanthropist.  

The Coldest Night of the Year will begin at Eau Claire Market at 5pm on the evening of Saturday, February 20th, where hundreds of Calgarians will zip up their parkas and tough out Calgary’s winter in support of the fight to end homelessness in Calgary.

Will you?

For more information or to sign up a team of your own, visit https://coldestnightoftheyear.org/location/calgary.