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Teen Challenge hosts sleep-out to support fight against addiction

Participants spend a night in the cold to raise awareness about rehabilitation program

4 min read
caption Tents set up for the Teen Challenge sleep-out in Victoria Park, Halifax
Leah Woolley
caption Tents are put up for the Teen Challenge sleep-out in Victoria Park.
Leah Woolley

In his 17-year-long drug addiction, Matt Holmes has spent many homeless nights out in the cold.

On Friday he found himself out in the cold again, but this time he was using his story to help others.

“I was so insecure with who I was,” said Holmes. “I was getting high just to impress people.”

The insecurity was the root cause of his addiction, he said, and Teen Challenge helped him to realize it and work through it.

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Holmes was a guest speaker at a fundraising event for an addict rehabilitation program run by Teen Challenge, a Christian addiction recovery program that operates worldwide.

As part of the event, over 30 people camped out in Victoria Park Friday night for the program’s annual “sleep-out.”

caption People listen to Matt Holmes speak about his experience with drug addiction.
Leah Woolley

Teen Challenge is open to anyone struggling with addiction over the age of 18. It doesn’t have a centre in Nova Scotia, but Dan Murray, CEO of Teen Challenge Canada, said they are in the process of expanding.

Murray said the event was meant to raise awareness and funding in support of the Teen Challenge programs available in Atlantic Canada through the rehabilitation centre in Moncton, N.B.

“It’s to try and get a taste of what it is like, if you are in your addiction and you are homeless,” Murray said Friday night.

Ten tents were set up in the park for the event. One man, Scott Wilson, came with nothing but a sleeping bag and two pieces of tarp.

caption Ex-paramedic Scott Wilson inside his self-constructed bivouac shelter.
Leah Woolley

“It keeps my body heat closer to me,” said Wilson. “Or at least, that’s what I tell myself.”

Hot drinks, snacks, and hand warmers were supplied from a large white tent near the road. People huddled around portable heaters and stamped their feet to keep warm in the -12 C weather.

caption Jonathan Lewis, a Teen Challenge Canada board member, roasts marshmallows over a portable outdoor heater.

There was even a Zumba dance class to raise people’s spirits and help them stay warm through movement. Holmes participated enthusiastically.

Before Teen Challenge, Holmes tried multiple programs and detoxes, all to no effect.

“I didn’t want to be out on the streets of Halifax,” he said.

His parents helped him start the Teen Challenge program last year. He hopes to graduate from the program next month and plans to go back to school this fall.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Holmes said. “Honestly, it helped save my life.”

Spenser Mason, development officer for Teen Challenge Canada, said the program sees a steady flow of Halifax residents, with 24 per cent of all graduates coming from Nova Scotia.

caption HRM Coun. Matt Whitman and David Finlayson exit their tent.
Leah Woolley

Teen Challenge currently has six rehabilitation centres across the country. Sometimes it’s difficult to get the word out about what we do, Mason said.

“We just want people to know that there is hope,” said Mason.

Holmes agreed, adding he has a message for anyone still struggling with an addiction: “Never give up.”

“It doesn’t matter how far gone you think you are, there’s always a chance,” he said. “There are no lost causes out there.”

According to the Teen Challenge Sleep-Out website, the Halifax event raised more than $16,600 in donations.

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  1. D

    Dr Marian Walsh

    Very interesting story Written for a great cause.
  2. R


    A fantastic initiative to create awareness for such a proven program!!! I luv Matt Holm's story-amazing!!!
  3. C

    Colette Girard

    I love good news stories! Well done!
    • T

      Trent Erickson

      Thanks for the feedback.
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