Coldest Night of the Year raises awareness of homeless in Edmonton, across Canada

Walkers in Edmonton will join others across the country to raise millions for homeless shelters and support agencies across Canada.

91 locations across Canada hosting Coldest Night of the Year Walks

Shawn Leitch, who was homeless just 6 years ago, will be among thousands of Canadians taking part in The Coldest Night of the Year walk 4:07

Hours after attempting to end his life, Shawn Leitch found the place that would help him turn it around.

Six years ago, Leitch was homeless, living outdoors in Edmonton’s river valley. Every day, he says, was a struggle, made more difficult by mental health problems and a crippling addiction to alcohol.

“I was depressed,” he said.

Brittany Moland says the money raised will go towards providing food and shelter through the Hope Mission. (CBC)
“No hope. Not knowing what was going to happen day-to-day.”

One morning, Leitch made a failed suicide attempt. Later that same day, while visiting the city’s Hope Mission for lunch, he learned more about the agency’s recovery and housing programs.

“They didn’t look down their noses at me. They said ‘I can see that you’re sick, that you need help. And that you don’t know how to get that help.’”

Six years later, Leitch is living and working at the Hope Mission. Saturday night, he joined others from across Canada for the Coldest Night of the Year Walk, raising awareness for those who live on the streets.

Teams of volunteers at the event, which is taking place in 91 cities and towns across Canada, raise money for local homeless shelters by walking two-, five- or ten-kilometre routes.

In Edmonton, the Hope Mission aims to raise around $85,000 with the walk. Brittany Moland, a special events planner with the shelter, said the money is vital for allowing the mission to continue offering support to the homeless.

“It means we can keep providing meals and shelter,” she said. 

Canada-wide, the Coldest Night of the Year has reached 94 per cent of its $3 million goal, according to the event's website. 

Last year's homeless count found that the city's homeless population remained stable, but noted that more young people and families were living without stable housing.

While shelters like the Hope Mission can use the money, Lietch said the walk has an added benefit: reminding people who are struggling with homelessness and addiction that there are places offering help.

“You say ‘you don’t give up hope, you keep moving forward.’”

“That’s what we’re here for.”

Details on the walks happening across Canada, as well as event registration, can be found on the event’s website.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.