Outdoor ‘sleep-out’ in search of support

Sam Odrowski

The Fort Frances Homelessness initiative is in search of brave souls willing to participate in a sidewalk “sleep-out” to raise money and awareness for a good cause.
About two dozen individuals so far have signed up for “The Longest Night of the Year” event, which is slated to run along Scott Street next Friday (Oct. 12) from 9 p.m.-6 a.m.
Event organizer Jill Pernsky said she hopes to find at least 82 people to register for the sleep-out because that’s the number of individuals deemed as homeless, or in danger of becoming homeless, during a homelessness count initiative held earlier this year.
“I’m sure there are more out there but those are the ones that we’re [able to count],” she noted.
Pernsky is confident the event will be able to hit the 82-person mark, noting how supportive the community tends to be for a worthwhile cause.
“This town always supports a good cause,” she lauded. “I’m always amazed at their support no matter what we do.”
Pernsky told the Times that everything seems to be moving along smoothly so far.
“We’re going well, were right on track,” she enthused. “We’ve got the posters out and pledge forms out.”
Pernsky would like to challenge everyone who is able in the community to participant, noting age doesn’t have to be a factor.
“I’m 63 and I’m going to be spending the night out in the streets,” she smiled.
The goal of the event is to raise $50,000 to set up a fully-staffed pop-up shelter at the Apostolic Way church here during the winter months.
The shelter would provide a heated area where those without a home can rest their head.
“From there, I’d love to see this continue and us get a permanent shelter here,” Pernsky said.
“We need a shelter,” she stressed. “Especially when we have mothers and a couple of kids that have nowhere to go.”
This event not only is meant to raise funds but also awareness of the fact there is no shelter in town to support those without a home.
“There is a problem with homelessness in Fort Frances that I think a lot of people aren’t aware of,” Pernsky remarked.
“Raising awareness is the main thing,” she reasoned. “The funding is wonderful but with the awareness–if they don’t see [homelessness] or don’t realize it’s here locally, then they’re not going to pay attention when we need them to.
“If they see 82 or 100 people sitting on Scott Street in sleeping bags, it’s definitely going to make an impact.”
The event also hopes to give participants a new level of empathy for those who are homeless every day of the year.
As such, Pernsky is encouraging anyone who wants a better understanding of what homelessness is like to come out and support the event.
“Just come out and see what it is like to sleep out in the street,” she said. “Even just for one night.
“Some of these people are sleeping out there for 365 days of the year.”
Pernsky also is urging businesses to challenge one another to the “Longest Night of the Year.”
Anyone who would like to register, pick up pledge forms, or ask questions about the event can call 274-3871.