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Mayor Dan Marchisella accepts homelessness challenge

Mayor's challenge: Step out of your suits, step out of your offices, step out of your homes and step out of your comfort zones for a week
10-03-18 Dan Marchisella KS
Elliot Lake Mayor Dan Marchisella. Photo by Kris Svela for ElliotLakeToday

A lack of government funding for Larry’s Place is forcing shelter staff to come up with creative ways to raise funds in order to continue providing services. 

After a few restless nights thinking about funding, Theresa Hiuser, the interim executive director for the Elliot Lake Women's Group came up with an idea – an idea that involved Mayor Dan Marchisella.  

Hiuser took the opportunity last week to ask the Mayor if he would consider going homeless for 24 hours to raise funds for Larry’s Place. 

She wasn’t sure if the mayor would think the whole idea was crazy. 

Hiuser was confident that “he was the right man for the challenge” and she “knew he would help me do this.”

Mayor Dan Marchisella has officially accepted the challenge and has also extended the homelessness experience to one week and has set a goal of raising $5,000 to donate to Elliot Lake Women’s Group which will go towards the shelters they run.

He has challenged others to join him to raise awareness. 

The Mayor's official challenge states, “To all Municipal, Provincial and Federal Government Officials; step out of your suits, step out of your offices, step out of your home and step out of your comfort zone for a week.”

Mayor Marchisella has a personal reason to support this cause as he himself has experienced homelessness. He can personally understand the challenges many people are faced with. 

He says, “We can no longer ignore this growing crisis in our country, we need to do more and talk less, we need to raise awareness and put forward a helping hand.” 

The Mayor will be participating in this challenge on the former Algo Mall site. 

He will still be meeting his work obligations during the day but intends to be at his homeless spot for the majority of the time and every single night.  

The Mayor will have a lockbox at his homeless location for people to drop off donations. The community can also donate to his fundraising effort on the Elliot Lake Website.

Hiuser told ElliotLakeToday that the “pandemic has exacerbated the homelessness problem.” 

It has not only become “a community issue or a provincial issue. It’s an issue in our country,” Hiuser says. 

Hiuser says that bringing awareness to homelessness is crucial. “It’s time to remove the stigma, we are all human beings”

The COVID pandemic has highlighted the need for more social services and programs. With current inflation rates, gas increases and the housing crisis we all could be a few decisions away from needing help. 

“Abuse does not choose, homelessness does not choose, it happens,” says Hiuser

Hiuser and her staff are thankful for the support and awareness that Mayor Dan Marchisella is offering to their organization. 

“This is a team effort... and we are going to make an impact.” 

The majority of the staff from the Maplegate and Larry’s place shelters will also be going homeless for the week in support of this challenge. 

They will be collecting pledges and asking local businesses to support their effort in this homelessness challenge. 

You can contact the Maplegate shelter directly at 705-461-9868 for more information or to donate. 

The full text of the mayor's release follows.

I will be undertaking the challenge of living homeless from June 20-25th at the former Algo Mall site on 151 Ontario Ave. I hope to raise around $5,000 for our local shelters, Maplegate, Larry's Place and the women's transitional home. I will have a lockbox to take donations along with people being able to go on the city of Elliot Lake website to donate also. 

As for the challenge, I will be using only what I can physically carry, so food and drink may be scarce also. I will need to step away from my shelter to meet my work obligations but will be spending most of my time and all nights on site. 

I know this will be a heavy and painful physical challenge for me also, as I have injuries sustained while on Roto in Afghanistan while serving with our Canadian forces. This challenge I would pass on to all municipal, provincial and federal government officials; step out of your suits, step out of your offices, step out of your home and step out of your comfort zone for a week.

This is not a camping trip, feel what it's like to be invisible on your streets, in your parks and in your alleyways. Feel the hunger, feel the cold and discomfort, feel what it is to be the unseen Canadian.

We can no longer ignore this growing crisis in our country, we need to do more and talk less, we need to raise awareness and put forward a helping hand.

I have been proud to serve my community, but before this, I was extremely proud to serve my country.

In other nations, the Canadian flag was a symbol of peace, humanity and charity. If we as a country can afford to give billions of dollars a year in foreign aid and relief, caring for others in countries we may never see, then surely we can do the same for our own Canadian citizens, our brothers, mothers, sons, friends.

From eight years of speaking with the homeless in many communities, I know there are many who choose to be homeless and would continue that journey by choice, but they're so many in all communities across this nation who have no choice.

They need a helping hand up, they need the care of a neighbour, and they need a guiding light to transition their lives in a new direction. Not only do we need homes and funding for these homes and the staffing.

We also need proper programming to assist with the multitude of issues that have caused this crisis, from addictions relief, trades training, financial planning, mental health workshops and the centres that can provide these. Some just need a helping hand for a few days... I know, because I've been there myself. 

I have had the pleasure to meet with many from Queens Park and Parliament over the last eight years, and know that most have big hearts and care for the people in this country, this is why I send the challenge to them, to make this the Canada that all other Nations believe we are...."

Mayor Dan Marchisella - City of Elliot Lake.