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Homeless initiative to hold 'sleep-out'

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Homelessness is more of a problem in Rainy River District than many people think.

According to initial indications from the homelessness count held earlier this year, there are 111 individuals in the district—and 82 in Fort Frances alone—who either are homeless or in immediate danger of becoming so.

The Fort Frances Homeless Initiative is hoping to bring awareness to the issue, as well as raise funds for an emergency pop-up shelter, during “The Longest Night of the Year” event next month

The initiative is planning a sidewalk “sleep-out” in downtown Fort Frances on Friday, Oct. 12.

The idea is for participants to get pledges and then spend the night on the Scott Street sidewalk—from 9 p.m.-6 a.m.—to help raise awareness of the issue.

“It's more than just raising awareness, it's an act of solidarity,” said Tammy Noble, a community legal worker with the Northwest Community Legal Clinic here, one of the many Fort Frances Homeless Initiative partners.

“I think there's a lot of people in town that are unaware of the homeless population or how large it is,” she added.

“The Longest Night” also is going to be a fundraiser for a pop-up shelter here.

Noble noted the Fort Frances Homeless Initiative tried to set up a pop-up shelter last winter but ran into difficulties.

“It just didn't happen,” she remarked.

"We had Building Code issues we had to deal with. We've got staffing issues we have to deal with.

“So there's going to be some money required," Noble remarked. "We're not going to be able to run it strictly with volunteers which we had hoped.”

“The Longest Night” participants are going to be urged to pick up a pledge sheet once they're ready and get others to pledge them to spend the night on Scott Street.

Donations also will be accepted.

As for the event itself, Noble said individuals will camp out on the sidewalk along the 200 and 300 blocks of Scott Street.

The street won't be blocked off as organizers want passers-by to see the participants spending the night on the street.

“I don't know how much sleep a lot of us will get," she conceded. ”There will be people bringing sleeping bags but we'll probably just sit and shiver all night.

“Tents will be set up, and I am going to open up the front part of the legal clinic so we have access to washroom or to warm up if we have to, and NCDS will do the same,” she added.

Noble said the initiative's goal is to have at least 82 people on the street on Oct. 12 taking part in “The Longest Night of the Year.”

“If we surpass that, that's even better," she enthused. "But we want people to see what 82 homeless people look like.”

More details will be announced in coming weeks, including how to collect pledges.

For more information on “The Longest Night of the Year,” contact Noble at the legal clinic (274-5327).

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