With winter coming, many are trying to keep warm inside their homes. But those without shelter are left with no protection against the cold. Urban Barn tries to remedy this.

Bringing more than merriment this holiday season

Urban Barn partners with local shelters to help the homeless

Throughout the month of November, Urban Barn aims to donate blankets to local shelters in an effort to fight the cold. Below are listed the participating shelters in Ontario. For Urban Barn locations in Ontario visit: http://www.urbanbarn.com/ontario

As temperatures dip lower in Toronto, furnishing company Urban Barn aims to shield the homeless this winter by providing some much-needed warmth.

Throughout November the company is attempting to Blanket the Country in Warmth with a goal of donating 8,000 fleece blankets in an effort to prepare shelters for the winter weather. At the chain’s 41 retailers across Canada, with every $5 donation, Urban Barn will give one of their blankets to a local homeless shelter.

Quick facts about homelessness in Toronto:

  • Estimated number of homeless people sleeping outdoors in Toronto on April 15, 2009: 400
  • Estimated overall number of homeless people in Toronto on the evening of April 15, 2009: 5,086
  • Number of different people who used shelters in 2010: 22,276
  • Number of Toronto shelter facilities as of May 2011: 57
  • Number of city-operated shelters: 9
  • Permanent beds on an average night in 2010: 3,800
  • Average 2010 occupancy rate for single adult and youth: 93%
  • Number of beds added to the system on nights when there is an extreme cold weather alert: 168

Manager Cassie Ocampo at Urban Barn’s Scarborough outlet says everyone is excited about the partnership and despite it being the first year, the reception has been great so far.

“Urban Barn is really popular for their blankets and throws … it’s nice to donate a blanket instead of money. It’s something that is unique to Urban Barn,” she said.

The Scarborough outlet has partnered with Second Base Youth Shelter, which aims to provide warmth and shelter for children. Sharon Ellen-Elliot is a manager at Second Base, and she says she can’t be more grateful for the timing of this initiative.

A lot of people don’t realize that youth don’t have food or shelter and that there are children in need. We want people to reach out during the holidays and realize that there are those who don’t have something just a basic as warmth

— Cassie Ocampo

“I’m thrilled,” she said. “Just last week we picked up 10 comforters and spent $150 which we could have used for something else in the shelter,” she said.

Second Base has been gearing up for what people believe is going to be a bitterly cold winter by having maintenance checks for their heating system and stock-piling winter clothes for youth.

Ellen-Elliot tells people she is a lover of winter, and that she aims to encourage and share this within Second Base.

“It’s true, I walk around and tell people that [I love winter], but you can’t love it if you are not warm … Just as we enjoy being warm and snuggled, so do youth in shelters,” she said.

This chart shows the number of homeless individuals in city funded areas on the night of April 15, 2009 and compares it with the 2006 results of Toronto’s Street Needs Assessment Results. (Courtesy of City of Toronto)

Susan Nick is a consultant at Elevator Communications, which represents Urban Barn. Nick says the Blanket the Country in Warmth initiative is essential because the company wants the brand to connect with the community.

“We want to make a direct impact, so it is important for us to choose shelters in the community that play a positive role and address homelessness,” Nick said.

Aside from providing relief, Ocampo believes it is also Urban Barn’s hope to carry its message into the community.

“A lot of people don’t realize that youth don’t have food or shelter and that there are children in need. We want people to reach out during the holidays and realize that there are those who don’t have something just a basic as warmth,” she said.

Even though it’s still in its infancy, Ocampo says Urban Barn’s Blanket the Country in Warmth endeavour is something that many would like to see perpetuated in the coming winters.