The Coldest Night of the Year walk in Barrie takes place on Saturday, February 22, but a local company wants to warm things up a week in advance, with a kick-off party.
The walk is the largest fundraiser of the year for Youth Haven, a 16-bed emergency shelter for youth who are experiencing homelessness. Participants can walk 2km, 5km or 10 km followed by a community dinner at the rotunda at Barrie City Hall.
Karen Zinn, co-owner of Multi Tech Audio Visual Inc., says she decided she wanted to help after touring the shelter.
Appreciating the programs and services offered by Youth Haven, Zinn says she still came away with a feeling of sadness.
Since then, Zinn has worked with her partner to develop a kick-off party at Lion’s Gate Banquet Centre on Saturday, February 15 that will feature a live DJ, dancing, silent auction, a photo booth, licensed bar and more.
“There will also be messaging about youth homelessness throughout the night. Not all of it negative. There are many success stories, lives changed by the kids experiencing homelessness and the help they have received from Youth Haven.” says Zinn.
Youth Haven provides shelter and outreach services to youth aged 16-24 in Barrie and across Simcoe County. Numbers from 2018 show more than 400 youth were assisted in some way.
1 in 3 people using emergency shelters in Simcoe County are youth, and Youth Haven has resorted to using couches in its living room as overflow, as the beds are always full.
There were 432 individual requests for beds in 2018 that the shelter could not accommodate because they were at capacity.
Zinn says she was surprised to learn well over 80 per cent of the youth who come through the door at Youth Haven are fleeing domestic violence and abuse, sexual, verbal and emotional.
Others seek a bed away from home because of family rejection after coming out as LGBTQ2S, still others are brought to the shelter after having been rescued from human trafficking.
Added issues that can compound situations revolve around mental health and addictions.
“The party is on Valentine’s weekend,”says Zinn. “What a great way to purchase a ticket, celebrate with us and show some love to youth in our community.”
Coldest Night of the Year kick-off party: https://www.mtav.ca/be-the-difference—cnoy-kick-off-party-fundraiser
Coldest Night of the Year walk: https://cnoy.org/location/barrie