Cyrus Centre in Abbotsford and Chilliwack participates in the Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) Walk on Saturday, Feb. 24 to help combat youth homelessness.
The event takes place in more than 120 communities across Canada.
Currently, it’s estimated that more than a quarter-million Canadians are homeless, and each night, more than 35,000 of those are stuck sleeping on the streets, including upwards of 7,000 youth.
Operating in Abbotsford since 2004, Cyrus Centre opened a location in Chilliwack in 2014 at the request of the community after research showed at least 44 per cent of the local homeless population was under the age of 19.
“Homelessness has increased since 2014, so more youth are on the streets,” says Maren Kroeker, a Cyrus Centre community development worker.
And although the centre’s number one goal is restoring youth to their families, it’s not always possible as family conflict is the number one reason young people flee their homes, often before the age of 16.
Cyrus Centre focuses on helping disadvantaged youth ages 12 to 18, providing what homeless youth say they need the most – a safe place to shower, do laundry, eat, sleep, and communicate with supportive adults – but it’s not always easy to help everybody who needs it.
Although Cyrus Centre has been able to make a impact on youth homelessness, they know they have long way to go, which is why they’re again participating in the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser.
“If we can help them within the first two years of being on the street, we have a higher chance of keeping them off the streets for good,” Kroeker said.
But money is needed to do that.
Last year, Cyrus Centre was able to raise $17,000 through the CNOY event. This year, they’ve raised their goal to $25,000. All money raised will go to increasing the amount and types of services and support the centre can offer.
“Last year proved it was worth it. We made a big impact on the youth and a bigger impact on the community because we’re able to reduce the number of youth staying on the streets,” Kroeker said.
The Abbotsford walk leaves from Abbotsford Pentecostal Assembly (3145 Gladwin Rd.). Registration begins at 4 p.m., and the walk starts at 5:15 p.m. A light meal for all participants is served from 6 to 8 p.m.
The cost to register is $40, but anyone who fundraises over $150 can walk for free.
“It’s a super-relaxed, (accessible), family-friendly event,” Kroeker said. “And everyone gets a toque!”
To register or for more information, visit cnoy.org.