Sleeping rough for Perth County’s unhoused
On a miserable, rainy and windy day, a group of Listowel, Ont. residents are braving the elements to shine a light and stand in support of the community’s unhoused residents.
“This is gravy compared to some of it. I remember one time, minus 40 [degrees], and I got soaked,” said Allen Gordon.
Gordon has lived through many days like this — awful weather, and no place to go. He has been unhoused for most of the past four years, here in Listowel.
“$1,100 for a one bedroom, how are you [going to] do that? How do you even split up the rooms, right? So you’re in between a rock and a hard place,” said Gordon.
Kayla Brodhagen has also lived on Perth County’s streets for a large part of her life, with drugs leading her down a dark path.
“Addicts don’t want to wait for anything. They want it now. So, when people would say to me, ‘Do you want to this,’ it’s a process, it didn’t happen, because we don’t like processes,” she explained.
As many as 200 people are “living rough” in Perth County with many more couch surfing, including some of those folks sleeping on Allie Gross’ couch.
“I see these people struggling, and they need help. For instance, my place has six or seven people living in it right now, and that’s pretty crazy,” said Gross, who also used to live on the streets.
Organizers can be seen setting up the “This is Home 24-hour Sleep Out” outside of It Takes a Village in Listowel, Ont. on March 25, 2023. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)That is why a hardy group of residents have agreed to spend 24 hours outside this weekend, sleeping rough in the parking lot of the Listowel Legion. Their goal is to raise awareness of the largely hidden Perth County problem, and much needed funds to operate It Takes A Village, an independent, non-profit thrift store and food bank, and second home for Listowel’s unhoused, co-founded and operated by Andrea Charest.
“When we talk about inclusion in communities that has to mean all means all. So that’s why we’re out here today,” said Charest.
Usually it is just Charest and Manny Coehlo who sleep outside for 24 hours as part of the annual fundraiser, but this year others are joining them.
“The awareness of folks living outside, and having food insecurity, and those issues, are being more brought to our attention, because our volunteering with It Takes A Village,” said Heather Heise and Cathy Krabbe.
Many of Listowel’s unhoused, who also volunteer at It Takes A Village, said Charest’s arrival here six years ago has brought dignity to their situation.
“She’s like, ‘Yeah, you can come in here. You can work here. You can volunteer here. Whatever you want.’ If [you] need somebody to talk to. She’s just amazing,” said a tearful Brodhagen.
“It was like we were walking around with the plague more or less. They’d see you and say, ‘Oh my goodness, get out of here.’ They’d find your camp, and kick you out. Nowadays, it’s a little bit better,” said Gordon.
Charest added, “The reality is we are all just one step away from walking someone else’s path. So when we look at what we require in our community to make change, it’s that ability to see that we’re not so different as people.”
Listowel’s “This is Home” 24-Hour Sleep Out" ends at 8 a.m. Sunday morning.
If you would like to support those participating and It Takes A Village, you can drop by the Listowel Legion, or visit their Facebook page or website.
The fundraising goal is $12,000.
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