Agents of Change spend a cold night in their car to raise awareness about homelessness in Peel

PEEL REGION (February 20, 2016) – Last night in the dark and cold, over 60 Agents of Change from across Peel Region participated in United Way of Peel Region’s 2nd Annual Longest Night event to raise funds and awareness about homelessness in our community. This included community and government leaders, United Way Advisory Council members and people with lived experience. As the sun set and the temperature dipped, participants began preparing for this immersive experience. With over 200,000 residents living in poverty the threat of homeless is a very real and growing local issue.

Shelley White, President and CEO, United Way of Peel Region joined City of Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffery, Councillor Martin Medeiros, and Member of Parliament, Brampton South, Sonia Sidhu in Garden Square in Brampton. “We’ve been working hard to create awareness about homelessness in our neighbourhoods. With each public push, I receive calls and emails from people who have or are experiencing homelessness.” said White. “We did this for one night. This cannot replicate the feeling of isolation, vulnerability and desperation that people who do this night after night feel. I hope it will bring the attention and support this issue deserves.”

“Last year 450 kids were turned away from the one emergency youth shelter in our community.” said Anita Stellinga, Vice President, Community Investment, United Way of Peel Region. “Homelessness looks different in our community - it’s hidden. The Longest Night is meant to shine a light on this social issue and mobilize our residents. From youth hockey teams to politicians, the reaction to this year’s event has been inspiring.” Stellinga joined Town of Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson, Councillor Jennifer Innis and Councillor Annette Groves at the Town of Caledon’s office.

“Spending the night in your car can make for one of the longest nights of your life. It’s difficult and it’s cold, but it’s a reality for many children and adults living in our community who have lost their homes and turn to their cars for shelter.” said John Russo, Board Chair, United Way of Peel Region. Russo also participated in the event.

Social media was filled with stories of outrage, confusion, disbelief and personal reflection as participants shared their experiences using #LongestNightPeel. The conversation carried many themes, including the recognition that participants would spend the next night sleeping in their warm bed unlike many others in our community. The event raised over $49,000. These funds will support the United Way’s homelessness strategy.

Participants included:

  • City of Brampton, Mayor Linda Jeffery
  • Town of Caledon, Mayor Allan Thompson
  • City of Brampton, Councillor Martin Medeiros
  • Town of Caledon, Councillor Jennifer Innis
  • Town of Caledon, Councillor Annette Groves 
  • Member of Parliament, Brampton South, Sonia Sidhu
  • Metrolinx President and CEO, United Way Board Member, Bruce McCuaig
  • Partner, Pallett Valo LLP, United Way Board Chair, John Russo 
  • Financial Services Senior Executive, TD Bank Financial Group, United Way Vice Chair Thomas Dyck
  • Senior Vice President, Payment, TD Bank, United Way Board Member, Chuck Hounsell
  • United Way President and CEO, Shelley White
  • Minor bantam hockey team - The Meadowvale Hawks 93
  • High school students and youth social justice clubs across the region

About United Way of Peel Region
Established in 1967, United Way of Peel Region inspires people from all walks of life to come together to raise funds, volunteer and motivate policy and attitude changes that lead to the improvement of people’s quality of life in Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga. United Way’s community investment focus is to help individuals and families move from a life of poverty to one full of possibilities, to ensure all children have the opportunity to be all they can be, and to build strong communities. For more information on United Way’s work in the community visit:

Media contacts:

Roy Saad | Manager, Stakeholder Engagement
416-356-6344 (mobile) | | @unitedwaypeel