Together on February 23, members of YYC Campus Ministry took to the sidewalks of Eau Claire and Kensington as part of the Coldest Night of the Year walk in Calgary. Our team of eight walked side-by-side with 290 other people and 90 volunteers to help raise awareness for the issue of homelessness in Calgary. We left our warm and comfortable homes to walk in the cold to declare our concern for people who have no homes and who need to take shelter in the nooks and crannies of Calgary’s streets. We walked because we wanted to show our support for the organizations who are impacting homelessness and food security in Calgary. We walked because we wanted to be part of a bigger movement.
As it says on the Coldest Night of the Year website:
“We walk for those whose days are a battle to house and feed their families, and whose nights are filled with fear and frustration. We walk for those driven from home by violence and abuse. And we walk for people overwhelmed by isolation, guilt and despair. We walk humbly, realizing that anyone can lose their footing and then lose everything else.”
Our small team was one of many on the night to take to the streets in Calgary. There were four locations across our city, and 129 more across Canada walking all at the same time to help raise awareness of this issue and funds for great organizations. Together we raised over $5,000,000 through over 21,000 walkers and 74,000 donors. In the specific walk we participated in there was over $73,000 raised!
This was such an amazing night to meet great people and see so many organizations making a massive impact. But beyond that, this walk had a huge impact on the lives and perspectives of our team members. The night was cold, especially once the sunset. It got down to -24, but with the wind chill, it felt much colder. We were shivering and moving faster towards our end goal. Five kilometres isn’t a long way to walk, but as the temperature drops around you, your face starts to freeze and your hands start to go numb, you start counting the steps until the finish line.
But we had a finish line. Somewhere that was warm and welcoming, and ready to receive us with food, hot drinks and places to sit.
The people this night was in support of, they don’t have that. They don’t always have a place that is warm or welcoming. They may not be able to eat or get a warm drink. And this thought had an impact on our team. As cold as we were, we realized how lucky we are. We could go inside, eat, talk, and then get into our vehicles and go to our warm houses. We didn’t have to worry about where our next meal was coming from or where we were going to sleep tonight.
That realization made the importance of this walk go beyond the money raised for our team. It made the issue of homelessness become real for many of them. Our conversations that night and the next centred on if housing should be a right. What would a ‘Housing First’ initiative look like in Calgary? What solutions are out there? What does homelessness look like in the rest of the world?
Our students were heavily impacted by the walk and by our visit the next day to the Calgary Mustard Seed. We aren’t sure where these conversations are going to lead our students, what impact they may have in their lives. But for now, we are talking and seeing what we can do as a Ministry to help support many of these issues.