Albertans lace up to raise $250K for homeless
Coldest Night of the Year walks in 6 communities have hundreds hitting pavement for fundraiser
A quarter of a million dollars is expected to come from Albertans Saturday to support the fight against homelessness.
More than 1,000 are walking in communities across the province as part of the annual Coldest Night of the Year event.
It's a national fundraiser, and despite the economy, Albertans are stepping up.
Jonathan Emard knows firsthand just how bad the economy is. The sheet metal worker was just laid off Friday.
"Time runs out so does money," Emard said.
He says a string of disappointments has left him with little more than his truck.
Edmonton's Hope Mission gives him a place to stay in the meantime.
"It's better than sleeping in your truck in -28 C so ..."
Four hundred walked in Edmonton Saturday, 600 in Calgary. In all, about 1,400 people from six communities around the province took to the streets.
Walks ranged from two, to five, to 10 kilometres. All, for people like Emard.
"It's not that bad out actually, as long as you are bundled up," one Edmonton walker remarked.
Walkers gathered pledges that go to organizations helping the homeless.
"Raising the money was easy, we just asked people we knew and they were happy to donate," walker Fran Henry said.
This time of year is chosen because it's normally one of the coldest nights of the year.
Rachael Chan is with Hope Mission.
"For us a winter is a matter of discomfort, maybe it's getting to and from work in the cold, maybe it's getting to and from the house in the cold," Chan said.
"Just being able to feel a hint of that is important for people to realize that it's a reality for some of our homeless neighbours. It's in this economic time that people come together even more."
The national program includes 92 cities, but is forecasting about $250,000 from Alberta alone, which organizers say is impressive given the drop in the price of oil and thousands out of work.
"With everything that's going on in Alberta … we're just honoured to be able to have a small part in helping people who are being affected by the economic downturn," national organizer Mika Takamaki said by phone from Kitchener, Ont.
Samantha Jones, a Calgary organizer, says her community has shown its spirit.
"Our donors have really stepped up, recognizing that our need is only going to be greater this year, so we're really grateful to them for their generosity," Jones said.
Meanwhile, it's that generosity, says Jonathan Emard, that makes him feel good.
"We're homeless yes, but they don't make you feel that way," Emard said.
"It's encouraging it doesn't make you feel so alone."