The United Way of Peel's Longest Night campaign

BY TRUDI FORD

My alarm went off at 6:21 a.m. – just the same as every other morning – except this morning I woke up to a very cold room. I checked the thermostat and discovered that our house was 15 degrees. Feeling frustrated, I investigated and discovered that during the night our furnace had stopped working.
It was inconvenient. It was cold. But we were also lucky. We called in a technician and were back up and running by the evening.

This was an eye opening experience for me. Here I was complaining about waking up to a room that’s 15 degrees – meanwhile, there are families all over Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga that wake up in cars below zero.

There are countless individuals that don’t have a warm place to sleep every night in our community. There are children who spend each night sleeping in oversized jackets, scarves and gloves, under many blankets and in a sleeping bag but they are still cold. This is happening in our community. There are cars parked overnight, often in the corner of strip plazas or in industrial areas. And this is happening every night – all year round – during heat waves and extreme cold alerts.

Over 200,000 individuals are struggling in Peel Region but many people are surprised to hear this. You don’t see homelessness here like you would in other parts of the GTA. But does it have to become something we see in our neighbourhood each day before we do something about it?

I’ve received countless calls and emails from individuals who are desperate for help and don’t know where else to turn. A few weeks ago I spoke with a lady by the name of Jane*. After working hard for over 25 years, she had fallen on hard times and had nowhere to turn. “I never donated to United Way and now here I am asking United Way for help.”  I was able to connect Jane to a number of United Way partners. A few days later she left me a voicemail: “This is just a moment in time, I will get back on my feet and I will give back. I promise.”

#LongestNightPeel is an annual event held by United Way of Peel Region that encourages individuals and families to spend one night in their car and fundraise. Participants gain a better understanding of the daily challenges faced by children and adults living in poverty in Peel Region. Join United Way staff, supporters and champions on February 17th as they participate in the third annual The Longest Night event. It’ll be uncomfortable, it’ll be cold and it’ll be eye-opening, you’ll wake up in a bad mood and sore but it’ll only be for one night.
 
If you can not sleep in your car, lend us your voice, ask your elected officials what they are doing to eliminate poverty in your community. On February 17, join the conversation and tweet using #LongestNightPeel.
Everybody deserves a warm, safe place to sleep each night. Help us make that possible.

Learn more at unitedwaypeel.org/longestnightpeel