NEWS

City CEOs raise $190,000 for homeless

Overnight sleepout raises awareness and money about homelessness in Winnipeg

Réal Cloutier, Chief Operating Officer for the Winnipeg Health Region, with José Francois, Head of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine, and Ross.
Réal Cloutier, Chief Operating Officer for the Winnipeg Health Region, with José Francois, Head of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine, and Ross.
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You can still donate to the CEO Sleepout

Background on the Sleepout

BY ANDREA BODIE
Winnipeg Health Region
Published Wednesday, October 2, 2013

City CEOs awoke this morning in the courtyard near the corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street.

About 100 corporate leaders from the private sector, government and not for profit agencies participated in the third annual CEO Sleepout, raising about $190,000 for 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 who spent the night outside at 201 Portage Avenue.

"I'm so grateful to everyone who supported me and took the time to donate. Your generosity is helping change lives and making a difference. Thank you," he says. "This year the event grew, so it's great that there were even more leaders involved in helping raise money and awareness for this cause."

It was Cloutier's second time participating. Because it was a bit warmer, he was able to get some sleep, saying he was very grateful it didn't rain. Sleeping in the cold, damp rain would have hit home the fact that homeless people face the perils of not having a roof over their head and thankfully, I didn't need to experience that reality.

Cloutier says events like the sleep out can help bring the community together in common cause to help alleviate Winnipeg's homelessness problem. "The health care system deals with the health consequences of homelessness. The community at large needs to strategize how to deal with this issue more proactively prevent homelessness," he says. "It's all about building relationships and trust, because working together is the only way we can begin to tackle these issues."  

That is why the United Way's Poverty Reduction Council has set up a Task Force involving many stakeholders focused on ending homelessness. These approaches in other North American Cities have been very effective in reducing the prevalence of homelessness. Winnipeg Health Region representatives are in this effort.

Once again, the city's homeless community frequented the area where the event was set up. While they may have been looking for food, they welcomed the opportunity to talk with participants and tell their stories.

"My sense is that people appreciated the time we took to hear about their story and situation," he says. "You get a sense that once someone becomes homeless, they really struggle with being acknowledged and respected by others."

Cloutier met one man who had been chronically homeless since he was very young. While he was once raised by his grandfather, when his grandfather died, he was suddenly without a home. He has struggled ever since.  

It's stories like these that are the reason this event is so important. It's also why raising money and awareness are a part of the solution, says Cloutier.

Cloutier welcomed Raymond Troughton, a familiar face, and enjoyed the chance to buy him a cup of coffee and catch up. Troughton is what Cloutier calls a success story in helping people make that transition from being homeless. "You hear stories of how bridging employment is important but it's apparent this is money well spent. Raymond has been helped by this program. This is one person - who is housed at the Bell Hotel and then found employment through Siloam Mission. He's now at a place where he's ready to find a job and then look for a home of his own," says Cloutier.

With a background in warehouse work, Troughton is considering looking for work in the customer service sector. Thanks to his job at Siloam Mission, he's learned these are marketable skills he has that make him desirable to employers. His calm demeanor, sincere willingness to connect and quick smile would make him an asset in this type of job. "Plus I'm getting old . . . warehouse work is hard on the body," he says, chuckling.

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