Cambridge, Ont. man to camp out across the province for homelessness

A Cambridge, Ont., man who camped out in the middle of winter in 2017 to raise money and awareness for the local homeless shelter plans to do it again, but this time he's going across the province.

'Each person that’s homeless has their own stories,' Paul Tavares says

Paul Tavares camped out in downtown Cambridge, Ont. in 2017 to raise awareness and money for The Bridges, a homeless shelter. (Paul Tavares)

A Cambridge, Ont. man who camped out in the middle of winter two years ago to bring awareness to the issue of homelessness is taking his message on a provincial tour.

In early 2017, Paul Tavares set up a tent across the road from The Bridges, a shelter in the city, as part of a campaign called 90 Days and Nights In The Cold.

His goal was to raise money for the shelter and to get people talking about homelessness. Tavares himself has been homeless in the past and says more needs to be done to get people into affordable places to live. Shelters are often full, he says.

On January 6, 2019, he plans to set up a tent in Thunder Bay, then will move each week to a new city. His stops include: Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, North Bay, Ottawa, Cornwall, Kingston, Belleville, Peterborough, Toronto, Guelph, Kitchener and he'll end in Cambridge.

"I'm trying to put a human face on this," he said in an interview Monday. "It's homelessness and each person that's homeless has their own stories."

He plans to document his trip and conduct interviews along the way with the goal of writing a book comparing experiences in the different communities.

He also hopes to speak with politicians in each city. He has scheduled his trip so he'll be in Ottawa when MPs are sitting and he hopes to camp close to Toronto City Hall.

Warmth not biggest concern

Tavares knows it will be cold, no matter where he is in the province. But the cold isn't the biggest concern for him.

"Staying dry is the issue. If we get freezing rain, doesn't matter whether it's February, January, March, you get cold. And it's hard to stay warm when you're wet so that's my biggest concern," he said.

He plans to dress in layers but won't have a heater in his tent. He says while he will have more protection from the elements than the average homeless person, it won't be easy.

"When I was truly homeless, I didn't have the greatest stuff but I had layers," he said.

"You sleep on a piece of cardboard on the ground and that itself, that layer of cardboard believe it or not, it's a huge protection from the moisture, from the coldness of the ground."