Fundraising participants to get a taste of life below poverty line
By Mark Newman, News Staff
A small city of cardboard boxes and sleeping bags is expected to assemble on the lawn outside Neighbour to Neighbour Centre on Friday night.
About 30 people will spend the night outside the Athens Street centre in a bid to get an idea of what the homeless have to endure each night and to raise money for the centre’s busy food bank.
“We are a (homeless) prevention program,” said Denise Arkell, executive director at Neighbour to Neighbour Centre, who noted many Hamilton residents are spending more than 60 percent of their income on housing and there’s little left for food and other necessities. “Without the support of food banks, a lot of residents would be in absolute homelessness.”
Arkell said the idea for the sleep out came from Shaw Cablesystems, who brought the proposal to them about four weeks ago.
Annita Wilton, regional manager of Shaw in Ontario, said they took part in a similar project in Sault Ste Marie last year that was run by a local soup kitchen.
“We noticed that there was nothing like that happening in Hamilton, so we brought it forward to Neighbour to Neighbour,” said Wilton, who added the project is part of the company’s national initiative to help food banks in their service areas.
Eleven Shaw employees are expected to take part.
Cynthia Radcliff is one of the folks who will be spending the night on the grass.
“To have that experience and get a better understanding of how challenging it could be should life get that hard,” said Radcliff, who expects to be bundled up come sundown. “I’ll be finding a box and making a bed in it.”
Arkell said each participant is raising at least $200 with all proceeds going to the west Mountain food bank.
Mountain residents are invited to come out and drop off food or monetary donations between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. tomorrow.
Meanwhile, demand for food bank services at Neighbour to Neighbour Centre continues to grow.
Food bank operations manager Sara Collyer said some 1,250 Mountain and Ancaster families are using the food bank each month.
That’s about 25 percent more than this time last year.
Collyer said they’ve begun asking area businesses about having food donation boxes on their premises as part of their spring food drive that runs from May 16 to June 20.
She noted this is the first time they’ve approached businesses about setting up food donation boxes outside of Christmas.
The food bank has either run out of or is in very short supply a variety of items including canned fruit and vegetables, canned beans, canned tuna, chicken and salmon, canned tomatoes and hot and cold cereal.
In addition to the Athens Street food bank, food or monetary donations can be dropped off at the Upper Gage Garage, a long-time Neighbour to Neighbour supporter, at 451 Upper Gage at Queensdale.
Call 905-574-1334 or see n2ncentre.com for more information.
Collyer also reminds city residents who are going on holiday shortly to clean out their cupboards and bring a box of food to Neighbour to Neighbour Centre.