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Coldest Night of the Year is looking for a few warm hearts

Youth Haven’s Coldest Night of the Year takes place Feb. 23 and helps feed hungry teenage boys, among others

Youth Haven’s Coldest Night of the Year is almost upon us and the teen-help organization is hoping to warm the streets of Barrie with the giving community.

The Coldest Night of the Year takes place Saturday, Feb. 23 and helps benefit people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are experiencing homelessness and, in some cases, abuse.

Nicole Barkley, who has been with Youth Haven for 12 years and is director of services, told BarrieToday the event will be the main fundraiser for the organization for the year and will help with much-needed costs.

“This is definitely our biggest fundraiser of the year and helps us out with all our needs for the centre,” Barkley said. “Our food budget a year is about $24,000 and a big chunk of the money raised goes toward that.

"We do get a lot of nonperishable food items donated to us," she added, "but we have to grab a lot of milk, fresh vegetables, meat and produce every day being that we can house 25 people. We open up lunch and supper to ex-residents, so sometimes we’re feeding 30 to 35 people.

"We have a lot of teenage boys and they tend to eat a lot, so any and all help is appreciated.” 

The Coldest Night of the Year has become an annual day across Canada with hundreds of towns and cities taking part.

Barrie’s branch of the event starts and ends at city hall with two-kilometre, 5K and 10K walks and is hoping to raise $50,000. The mark currently sits at just over $10,000.

Barkley says that it can be a cold walk to participate in, but that's the whole idea.

“It can be cold, for sure, but the original intent was to show people what youth without a home have to go through in the winter,” she said. “But it is a fun event and this year we even have a photo booth where people can take group pictures and the downtown fire hall is our rest stop. The cool thing about that is if the fire department isn’t busy they let the kids see the fire trucks and do some tours, so that’s a nice thing for the little ones.”

There are a number of services provided by Youth Haven as well, so it's not just a place for teens to come for a meal and sleep. The centre is involved in helping teens get back on their feet through different programs. 

“They initially get 45 days to stay here after we take a look at their case, because if they just don’t like to clean their room we are sending them right back home,” said Barkley.

“They meet with our case manager, we have a doctor program from a partnership with the RVH (Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre), we have outreach staff in Barrie that help with counselling and getting them to needed appointments. We really encourage youth to go to school and we’ll even take them to that first meeting, because they may lack the confidence to go on their own," she said. "It’s the same with any work meetings or finding work and getting there, we really try to help the teens acquire the skills to get their life back after being homeless through abuse or other reasons.”

The Coldest Night of the Year is Saturday, Feb. 23 with the sign-in time at 4 p.m. To sign up or get more information, click here.

To donate to Youth Haven, head to the website.