Participants at this year’s Boxes and Blankets fundraising and awareness raising event spent 12 hours overnight outside of the Downtown Chatham Centre with only a cardboard box for shelter and some blankets for comfort to feel what it’s like to sleep on the street.
With a goal of raising $10,000, the annual event is in its fifth year and had 24 participants come out to support Chatham Hope Haven.
One of the participants who understands firsthand the importance of having a haven is Bill Sprague.
A volunteer for over a year now, Sprague gives his time three days a week and was once homeless in London, battling addiction.
“I can give them a listening ear because I have been where they have been. I know what addiction can do to you and what it can take away,” said Sprague.
Proud to be sober and clean for over 15 years now, Sprague does what he can to help, and has seen the difference the haven has made for the men.
“I have seen some of them move onto their own housing and they are doing pretty good now. I stay in contact with three or four of them, if not more. Other volunteers are the same, we don’t just send them out of the door and say, ‘See you.’ They know if they need something, they can come and see us,” he added.
Celebrating two years open this November, Chatham Hope Haven is open between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., seven days a week and provides 10 beds each night for homeless men, along with access to laundry facilities, showers, clean clothing, support and resources.
Chatham Hope Haven co-ordinator Wanda Bell said at the end of Boxes and Blankets, participants leave with a new perspective on what it is like for those living rough.
“They walk away with a greater empathy for those who don’t have a place to live,” said Bell.
She added one of the biggest problems facing the homeless now is the issue of affordability of homes.
“We see more homeless now,” said Bell.
Always in need of more volunteers, Bell said the hardest position to fill is the overnight 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift.
Located at 183 Wellington St. W., anyone still wanting to make a donation or volunteer can contact the Haven at 519-351-4010 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.