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Kelowna prepares for the Coldest Night of the Year

Despite winter's chill more than 150 Kelowna residents have plans to don their walking shoes Saturday night and take to the streets.

The nationwide Coldest Night of the Year event will be held locally for the third time, in an effort to raise funds for the Gospel Mission's programs as well as awareness about what this community's homeless population contends with.

"We are only walking five or 10 kilometres to get a sense of some of the struggles our clients face," said Ami Catriona, marketing and communications officer for the Gospel Mission.

"At the end of the night we know we can have a warm bath, or crawl into a warm bed… but many we are serving don't have that option, and that hits home."

The Gospel Mission will donate the funds raised to several of its programs.

Among those programs is the mission's women's emergency service shelter.

In August, Catriona said, the shelter will mark its third anniversary. It opened with a partnership between the Gospel Mission and NOW Canada which still continues, and has resulted in 10 emergency beds for women.

"It's really well used," said Catriona. "For many years there was a greater need for men's emergency shelter. But  as the city evolved, it became apparent that there really was a need for more emergency beds for women."

Catriona explained that historically, when women got themselves into a "tricky situations," they'd find shelter  at the risk of their own safety, like in a harmful relationship or unsafe environment.

When the city developed services to help women out of harmful situations, it became clear that a corresponding, temporary service of safe harbour was also needed. And, funds from the walk will go to fund that endeavour.

Dollars raised will also be used for longer term housing for women, where life skills programming is available.

Finally, there's the Gospel Mission's dental clinic, which helps everyone from children to seniors who don't have the means to foot the bill for dental work in a conventional clinic.

The walk begins and ends at the French Cultural Centre, 702 Bernard Ave Feb 22.  Registration is at 4pm and the walk begins at 5:15 p.m.

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