February 19, 2019 11:33 pm
Updated: February 23, 2019 9:49 pm

Edmontonians to experience the cold in support of the homeless

WATCH ABOVE: As the temperature dips yet again in our city, hundreds of people are hitting the streets. It's an effort to raise money for the homeless. As Albert Delitala reports, it also gives the more fortunate, a chance to relate.

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Two charities in our city are hosting an event that supports their programs and resources, but also let’s Edmontonians empathize with homelessness and poverty.

The Coldest Night of The Year is a family-friendly walk where participants raise money for the organization they’re walking with. Those who take part walk two, five or 10 kilometres through the cold.

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The Bissell Centre and The Mustard Seed will host the 500 people taking part in Edmonton. One hundred thirty-five cities and communities across Canada will join in on the cause, which takes place this Saturday.

“It goes a long way to support people to transition them out of homelessness and into homes,” said Devin Komarniski, communications manager at the Bissell Centre.

“All money raised will support the Bissell community space and services like employment and housing opportunities.”

Watch below: With Edmonton expecting a bitterly cold night, Vinesh Pratap takes a look at whether there’s enough shelter space for the city’s most vulnerable citizens. (Filed Feb. 4, 2019).

The Bissell Centre’s fundraising goal is $100,000. As of Tuesday, they’ve raised $92,356.

“With four days to go, we’re confident we’ll get there and exceed it,” Komarniski said.

The Mustard Seed has raised $23,345 towards their goal of $35,000.

As people walk through the cold on Saturday, they’ll get a taste of what those facing homelessness have to experience every winter.

The temperature as the sun sets on Saturday will dip to -24 C, according to Environment Canada.

“[It’s] an opportunity for the everyday Edmontonian to get a little sense of what it’s like to be homeless in Edmonton during the winter, at night-time and spending hours on your feet,” said Komarniski.

“It helps people empathize with the struggle they are going through, and it’s also a unifying experience for people that care about this cause.”

READ MORE: Edmonton bus driver applauded for helping homeless man in freezing cold

Komarniski said the recent cold snap has been tough on the Bissell Centre’s clients.

“People are coming in with frostbite and other cold weather ailments,” he said. “They’re aggravated, cold and feeling the isolation it brings.

“We’ve had some specific cases of extreme frostbite where people had to go to the hospital.

“We want people who come to Bissell to be uplifted and empowered to make positive steps in their lives, but the cold just puts all of that on pause.”

READ MORE: Small act of kindness goes a long way during Edmonton’s cold snap

The warmer weather this week’s forecast is predicting is welcome, but it doesn’t solve the problem of homelessness.

“We’re lucky to be moving out of that cold, but there’s still some winter to go and this walk raises funds to support our work to help people warm up and find the access to supports they need,” Komarniski said.

“It’s also a way the larger community can to come together and express their concerns for people living on the street.”

Those taking part in The Coldest Night of the Year with the Bissell Centre will walk downtown. Those with the Mustard Seed will walk on the south side, and they’ll all be wearing blue and white toques for awareness.

“The route begins at the Boyle Street plaza, heads up 104 to 109, heads down Jasper Avenue east, and then heads north on 97 Street back to the plaza,” Komarniski explained.

Komarniski said the goal is to continue growing the cause.

“We hope to really make an impact with our voices, but also our networks to pool funds that will support these programs that help people get off the street.”

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