The Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) walk is coming back to Castlegar and a couple of local teens gave city councillors some compelling reasons to support the cause during this week’s council meeting.
The CNOY walk aims to raise awareness and funds to help combat homelessness.
Castlegar youth Jacob Nickason says he has experienced homelessness first hand.
“I’m here today to give you a bit of a youth perspective on homelessness,” Nickason told council.
Nickason’s father became ill, which resulted in the family being homeless for a short period of time.
“Thankfully, being in Nelson, they had the programs and shelters that helped us get back on our feet fairly quickly. But I don’t see the same in Castlegar, which is very worrying.
“That is why as a youth I am supporting CNOY,” said Nickason. “One in five homeless are youth and I want to help put a stop to that.”
“Even if this movement only had the support of one town, called Castlegar, it would still be a huge start in changing or saving someone’s life.”
The local walk is being led by youth under the guidance of Zoe Mackay, Castlegar’s Youth Action Network Program Coordinator. It will be held on Feb. 23.
Kaylee Bell is a youth leader at the Castlegar Youth Action Network, and although she has never experienced homelessness herself, her parents and grandparents have.
“I have always had a roof over my head and known where my next meal is coming from,” said Bell. “But both of my parents grew up in poverty, so I know that it happened in my family and it really hurts knowing that people do struggle with that.”
Bell feels strongly that everyone can play some role in the walk.
“I want to do my part to help, and I think it is my responsibility to help,” she said.
“I think there is a lot of apathy in Castlegar, because we don’t really see the homeless community all that much.”
Mackay has set a goal of 30 teams this year and she wants to encourages businesses, families and other groups or individuals to put a team together to fight homelessness.
Money raised during the walk is split three ways between the CNOY organization, the Castlegar Youth Action Network and the Castlegar Homelessness Partnering Strategy.
“It’s one day of the year. This is the future of Castlegar we are talking about,” said Mackay.
“I want to encourage everyone to contribute in some way — sign up, volunteer, make a contribution.”
For more information go to cnoy.org or contact Mckay at firstname.lastname@example.org.