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2002 Toques Campaign To Help Canadian Homeless Now Underway

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 05 February 2002 00:00

This is the fifth February that Canadians are "Raising the Roof" against homelessness by purchasing CN$7 toques (grey this year) in an awareness and fund-raising campaign sponsored by our national charity, Raising the Roof .

Last year, 85,000 toques were sold and hundreds attended comedy club events across Canada to raise almost CN$450,000. This year, volunteers are determined to beat their 2001 total and help uncounted thousands of homeless Canadians -- young and old, individuals, couples and families.

Long-term or "chronically" homeless people may be the most visible homeless on Canadian streets, but they represent less than 20% of the homeless population. The fastest growing segment of homeless is families with children. People find themselves without a place to live for many complex reasons, but most are grounded in the challenges of living on minimum wage, a basic pension or other fixed incomes.

"It's hard to measure how many less homeless there are because of our efforts, just as it's hard to measure how many homeless there are in the first place," says Maureen Gallagher, Toque Campaign Manager, explaining that her organization helps with one of the toughest parts of the fight against homelessness -- fund raising.

"There is recognition that this is a crisis in Canada...This is a national campaign with a national profile, but it is very grassroots since the funds raised in a community go to agencies in that community. We help agencies in the front lines dealing with homelessness."

Raising the Roof aims to send about 80% of its net proceeds to selected agencies in the communities that raise funds. This year, proceeds from toques sold in Durham Region, east of Toronto, will help build North House, a new transitional housing facility that will serve homeless families in three rural municipalities, 5 towns and numerous villages and rural areas. Almost 5,000 households are on the government list for subsidized housing in Durham which means a family may wait up to 10 years for an affordable home. This leaves thousands needing emergency housing in this rural region.

"People in a rural setting are not immune to the same problems faced by those in urban settings such as having a fire, losing their job, being downsized," says Lynn Campbell , a representative on the North Durham Homeless Outreach Committee which works to help people stay in the communities they know.

"In rural areas, people are more invisible. Generally speaking, they are on people's couches although I have found them in cars or parks. They have to leave to go to urban areas to get the services provided."

This year, residents of Vancouver, Ottawa, Halifax, Toronto and smaller Canadian communities like St. Catharines will be able to buy toques locally:

  • Over 8,000 Aliant Pioneers will sell toques in corporate offices throughout Atlantic Canada while students at 11 Nova Scotia Community Colleges will join in, too.

  • Across Ontario and in Winnipeg, Pharma Plus will sell toques in their drugstores.

  • In Collingwood -- the heart of a popular Ontario ski region -- enthusiastic volunteers are selling toques on the slopes, hosting skating parties and involving school children across the Golden Triangle to raise awareness as well as much needed funding.

  • In St. John's, Newfoundland, federal government employees, calling themselves "Toque Fairies," are selling toques to fellow employees.

  • Comedy club fund raisers , including one hosted by Rick Mercer in Toronto, will also bring in valuable contributions as these and other events continue through February.

The seriousness of the crisis and worthiness of the cause gave rise to Raising the Roof which was founded on the belief that no one should be homeless in a country with Canada's resources. Since the early 1980's, homelessness has been on the rise as federal and provincial governments continue to strip away the social safety net.

Although homelessness is not just a housing problem, lack of housing is at the heart of the problem. Download factsheets from Raising the Roof to help you identify the warning signs for homelessness, learn about solutions that work and the practical things you can do to help combat homelessness in your community.

Toques may also be ordered online at or by calling 1-877-444-0206.

For more articles by P.J. Wade, please press here .

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PJ Wade

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