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Sleep-out in Halifax raises money for addictions centre

The group raised over $34,000 of $50,000 goal

For Ron Murphy, spending a night in the cold is something he’s all too familiar with.

He’s one of about 20 people who spent Friday in Halifax’s Victoria Park with a faith-based addictions group from Memramcook, New Brunswick.

It was two degrees below freezing.

“I’ll speak for myself: I spent time on the streets. It wasn’t cold like this. It was on the streets of Montreal and it was summertime,” said Murphy. “It wasn’t nearly as bad. There’s people here tonight in Halifax sleeping on cardboard.”

The camp-out was part of a drug and alcohol abuse awareness fundraiser hosted by Teen Challenge. Despite its name, the group isn’t for teens, but for people 18 years and older, like Murphy.

The group chose Victoria Park because Halifax is larger than Memramcook, which makes it a better place to spread their message.

There are currently 14 people living at the addictions centre in New Brunswick. Teen Challenge has 16 locations across Canada.

Murphy said the camp-out is for a great cause.

“If you want to change, this is the place to go,” he said. “We’re trying to raise money, so we can keep our facilities available to anyone.”

Spenser Mason, the development officer at Teen Challenge, also went through the treatment program.

“It was very challenging, but the most rewarding thing I’ve ever had to do,” said Mason, adding that anybody who wants to can take part, they don’t have to be Christians.

The program is designed to help people overcome addictions through faith and practical skills training. The year-long residency is completely free of charge, other than an initial $1,000 entrance fee. Participants have limited access to the outside world and are only allowed visitors once a month.

By 11:30 p.m., the group went to sleep in their tents and pastor Scott Wilson from Prince Edward Island wrapped himself in his bivvy bag.

Wilson has participated in every camp-out held by Teen Challenge, in order to gain experience and understanding.

“We were seeking to raise awareness about addictions and its troubles and I thought of the homelessness that goes hand-in-hand with that. I wanted to experience it as close as I dared to being homeless,” said Wilson.

“I bought a tarp, folded it in two, taped two edges together, crawled in and went to sleep.”

Teen Challenge raised over $34,000 of its $50,000 goal with help from over 80 different sponsors. These included corporate sponsors, like The Chicken Burger, Scotiabank and Wheaton’s, and online donations.

They are planning to do another camp-out next year, but Friday night’s focus was on keeping warm.