By Jasmine Franklin
Sleeping outside in the cold, in the dark, and with no home — do you think you could do it?
Ponoka’s Champions Centre is about to embark on a fundraiser for the entire community. Assistant director Jeff Hanger, is asking residents to rise to the challenge of experiencing homelessness for one night.
Participants will sleep outside of the St. Mary’s Anglican Church on Sept.25 in the second annual Sleepout Challenge.
“It’s a fantastic way for people to experience homelessness in a safe environment,” Hanger said. “There’s a huge gap in Alberta today in the services that are provided for the people we help.”
The Champions Centre was established in 2002 and has become a rooming house for up to 16 low-income people, many with mental challenges. The centre does not receive government funding and there is only one fundraiser held each year.
Last year’s Sleepout Challenge brought 40 people literally to Ponoka’s streets and raised $6,000. This year, Hanger hopes to see organizations challenge each other and for individuals to collect as many pledges as they can.
“Last year one guy came out with sheepskin clothing and a blanket — nothing else,” board member,Geoff Mills, said. “He wanted to prove to himself what it’s truly like to be homeless.”
Without the Champions Centre many of their clientele could easily fall through the cracks of society, Hanger said. The centre works with the residents to help budget their income and medication, all the time being sure they make the $685 rent per month
“All these individuals need is a bit of support,” said Hanger.
There are hopes of opening a second centre in Ponoka. Research is currently underway, studying the kind of support most needed and what could be provided by a second centre.
To register for the second annual Sleepout Challenge, visit thechampionscentre.ca or call Hanger at (403) 783-6708. The deadline to register is Sept.18. Hot drinks will be given out all night and breakfast will be provided.