City CEOs raise $110,000 for homeless 

Overnight sleepout gives corporate leaders new insight into old problem

Real Cloutier, just waking up from a somewhat sleepless night at the CEO Sleepout, which raises funds and awareness about homelessness.
Real Cloutier, just waking up from a somewhat sleepless night at the CEO Sleepout, which raises funds and awareness about homelessness.
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Background on Sleepout

Winnipeg Health Region
Published Friday, September 28, 2012

A number of city CEOs awoke this morning in the courtyard near the corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street, having raised around $110,000 to help the homeless in Winnipeg.

Fifty corporate leaders participated in the second annual CEO Sleepout to raise money and awareness about homelessness. Funds go to the Downtown Business Improvement Zone's Change for the Better program, which supports homeless employment programs like Siloam Mission's "Mission: Off the Streets Team."

Réal Cloutier, Chief Operating Officer for the Winnipeg Health Region, was one of the corporate leaders sacking out overnight in front of 201 Portage Avenue.

Although he was in his sleeping bag by midnight, Cloutier said he had a hard time getting comfortable. Sirens from fire trucks and ambulances didn't help, he said, adding that he fell asleep by 2 a.m. and was up by 6 a.m.

"It was an experience," he said. "I wasn't cold but the sirens were really loud. It took me a long time to settle down."

Real Cloutier and Rick Frost

Real Cloutier and WRHA Board member Rick Frost at the CEO Sleepout.

Noise was a factor for other participants, too. Rick Frost, CEO of the Winnipeg Foundation and a member of the Winnipeg Health Region's Board of Directors, woke up several times during the night thanks to loud banging.

As part of the event, executives toured some of the city's emergency homeless shelters on Thursday night, before bunking down on the streets themselves.

Mona Stott, owner of Mokada Jewelry, said visiting the Salvation Army shelter was an eye opener. "It was maxed out for the night," she said. "There were mats in the foyer. There were no blankets, because people need them so they're not returned. If you turn a blind eye on this, shame on you."

Hearing the story of a ranking military officer who was formerly married with kids gave Stott another perspective. The man has post-traumatic stress disorder and is currently self-medicating to cope. "It was powerful to hear his story, when I asked him why he was there," she said.

The stories are important to remember, said Cloutier. "For most people, their immediate reaction when someone approaches you is that they're looking for money. It's important to remember these are human beings," he said. "I often think 'there but for the grace of God go I' - it could be any of us."

Cloutier was glad to be part of a great group of people working to raise awareness and money to address these complex issues.

"I'm grateful for the support," he says. "We don't get change by big dramatic things. People need to be concerned and taken action. Homelessness is not an issue that government or one individual can fix."

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