WATCH: Walks held across Canada, including eight on Vancouver Island, aim to raise $4.5 million to fight homelessness. Dean Stoltz reports.
Canada's national walk for homelessness is a growing movement that began in Ontario in 2011, and has raised over $16.5 million.
On Saturday 121 Canadian communities participated with a fundraising goal of $4.5 million.
Campbell River, Comox Valley, Parksville, Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Ladysmith and Victoria(2) are the eight communities on the island who participated Saturday.
In the Comox Valley, about 400 people hit the pavement for two, five or 10 kilometre walks.
"It's to raise funds for the hungry, the homeless and the hurting," said Heather Ney, Executive Director of Comox Valley Transition Society. "I don’t think any of us can truly imagine what it’s like to be on the streets in the night and this just gives a very minor sense and feeling of what it’s like to shiver in the cold at night outside."
In Victoria there were two walks to benefit the homeless. One was for the Mustard Seed church, the other for Our Place Society.
"We've had emergency weather now for 13 nights in a row," said Our Place's Grant McKenzie. "It’s been that cold where we’ve had to open additional shelters, so it’s just giving the community a little taste of that but also when they finish the walk and they can come into Our Place they’re able to see some of the services that we're offering and exactly what Our Place is all about."
Comox Valley organizers hope to raise $75,000 which stays in the community, to help the homeless find housing and keep it.
"We rent apartments, condos, houses and we place clients in those homes and they pay what they can and then we top up the rent and the utilities," said Richard Clarke, President of Dawn to Dawn Action of Homelessness Society. "So the funds from this help us house about 30 adults with maybe a dozen children with them through the course of the year."
There are estimated to be 150 and 200 homeless people in the Comox Valley.
"It’s our largest fundraiser of the year so it really makes a difference whether we have enough funds to do what we’re doing or not so if we do well on this I know I can sleep during the year because we'll have enough funds to do what we need to do." added Clarke.
For more details, or to donate to a walk in your community, you can find more information here.