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40,000 Red Toques Fight Homelessness

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 15 February 2000 00:00

Raising the Roof, a national Canadian charity that raises funds to find long-term solutions to homelessness in Canada, has sold over 40,000 red toques in Ontario and a yet untallied amount in British Columbia and Halifax. Executive Director Jennifer Parnell credits a televised, public-service announcement, featuring Canadian celebrities putting on the distinctive Raising the Roof toques, with raising public awareness and sales. Corporate involvement has also promoted the cause.

If you have a comfortable home, why would you be interested in this campaign? What has homelessness got to do with real estate? The thousands of Canadian Realtors who volunteer their time to raise funds and awareness to help fight homelessness believe this tragedy undermines the strength and security of Canadian communities. Anything that affects a neighbourhood can influence issues from property values to quality of life factors for those living, working and shopping locally.

Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver celebrated Raising the Roof's Toque Tuesday on January 25, February 1 and February 8, respectively. Eventually, this charitable organization hopes to have national Toque Tuesday programs. The knitted red and black toques, a true symbol of warmth and comfort to most Canadians, sell for a minimum $5 donation. Raising the Roof also received over $200,000 in corporate donations.

"There are three needs [to fill] for a national organization which deals with homeless," said Parnell, who explains that Raising the Roof was the Canadian National Housing Foundation until it reinvented itself about three years ago. "One, we need fund raising for those in the front lines. Two, we need public education so that people understand homelessness is more than panhandling and that it involves men, women and children. And three, those who work on homelessness need to talk to others who work on the issue so we can form a national strategy."

When the Toque Tuesday campaigns began in 1998, university students from one downtown Toronto campus sold 400 toques in the subways. Now, Toque Tuesday is the kick-off to a week of comedy events which address this serious subject with humour. Toronto had a four-day comedy festival and Lank would like to see this side of the campaign grow across Canada. This year, sales will exceed 40,000 toques – well in excess of their 20,000 toque goal.

"We are just touching a small percent of the problem," said Parnell, explaining that they share the funds with a few representative agencies in the sponsoring cities. "We hope to raise $100,000 for 5 partner agencies in the Toronto area. In Halifax, maybe we can raise $20,000 or $25,000 this year and the same amount in Vancouver."

Local solutions to this national problem are popping up spontaneously. A group of Ottawa investment advisors partnered with two local agencies for the homeless and sold 4,000 toques.

Not having a roof over your head is the simple definition of homeless but it is not the most accurate. Programs to fight homelessness must also help those who are under housed, those who cannot afford support services that help them stay independent and those who are underemployed or unemployed.

For information on Raising the Roof and Toque Tuesdays: Phone 416-481-1838 or 1-888-668-0666 (toll-free, Canada); or visit

FYI: "All Eyes on the Federal Budget"

The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TCRC) has launched a campaign to demand that the federal government adopt the One Percent Solution, a national strategy to end homelessness by doubling the amount of federal funding for housing and services. For details, contact TDRC at 416-703-8482 x 411

More Canadian News & Issues:

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