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Walking for the homeless

Walk-a-thon enables drop-in centre to serve growing clientele

The amounts of people using the Helping Hands drop-in centre has nearly doubled in the last six months and the society is asking for help.

The Squamish Helping Hands Society is holding its first walk-a-thon to raise money for critical community support programs for the homeless. The walk-a-thon will take place Saturday (March 28) at 1 p.m., starting at the drop-in centre, 37930 Third Ave.

"It's the first time we have done a walk-a-thon and we're hoping to raise money for operating costs such as food, cleaning supplies and building maintenance," said Rick McKinney, program co-ordinator.

McKinney said fundraising efforts are important because he's noticed a change in the crowds that come to the drop-in centre - they're bigger, nearly double. He said the drop-in centre serves upwards of 70 to 80 people a day.

"We are seeing lots of new faces and people who've been in Squamish for years whose circumstances have brought them to the drop-in centre," McKinney said. "Our mission is to provide support."

The Helping Hands Society drop-in centre provides a place for homeless to get out of the elements and receive a warm meal said McKinney. This winter the centre has been running seven days a week and the demand is growing.

"Assisting the homeless is one of the most effective means we have to help them become more active and meaningful members of community," McKinney said.

Rain, sleet or shine, volunteers and staff will walk to support the homeless in Squamish. The route starts at the drop in centre, loops around downtown and finishes at the Howe Sound Brew Pub. Walkers are now looking for pledges, which can be dropped off at the centre.

Opened since 2007, the centre has laundry facilities, showers, a kitchen, and telephone and computer access.

Last week council expressed support for a proposed new multi-use building that would include a new drop-in location, a permanent shelter on the second floor, office space for community outreach programs and small self-contained suites on the third and fourth floors.

The Helping Hands Society is spearheading the project in discussions with Vancouver Coastal Health and BC Housing.

For more information on the Helping Hands Society or to donate to the walk-a-thon, call 604-815-4984.

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