Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Asleep on the job OK for this crowd

Fundraiser helps those living on street

  • Print

I'm going to take a wild guess you have never slept out at the corner of Portage and Main.

This is probably because of a variety of reasons, such as the fact you have a lovely home and a comfortable bed and, if you do go camping, you prefer something a little more picturesque and a lot less noisy.

It's the same with me, but this morning, for the second straight year, I woke up cranky, confused and cold after an evening spent trying to sleep under the stars on a patch of grass in a courtyard near the historic corner.

I joined about 100 community and business leaders huddled together in sleeping bags as part of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ's third annual CEO Sleepout, which supports employment programs for the homeless, such as Siloam Mission's Mission: Off the Streets Team.

For the record, it's not about pretending to be homeless for a night. It's about shining a spotlight on, and raising cash for, a crucial issue by giving some high-profile Winnipeggers a tiny taste of what the city's most vulnerable citizens deal with on a daily basis.

You didn't ask, but one of the highlights for me comes in the wee hours when, after finally nodding off, you are blasted awake by what sounds like a battle between giant alien robots but is, in fact, waste-removal trucks emptying huge metal garbage containers located frighteningly near the spot where you are resting your sleepy little head.

Last year, I was startled awake and, with several gallons of adrenalin shooting to my brain, looked over at CJOB's Richard Cloutier, who had the misfortune of sharing the same lumpy patch of lawn.

"Did you hear that?" I croaked at Richard, whose exhausted expression was not unlike the one I frequently see on my wife's face in the morning.

"No, Doug, I didn't," he grunted. "Your SNORING drowned it out!"

I suspect he was kidding around in a light-hearted manner, but that is not the point. The point is all the money raised from the sleepout goes to the BIZ's Change for the Better campaign, which helps get people off the streets and into decent housing and jobs.

Speaking of money, the original fundraising target was $150,000, but online donations topped that mark on Monday, so the BIZ upped its goal to $175,000, which was exceeded early Thursday. Now, it's hoping to raise $200,000 this year.

Jason Syvixay, head of public relations and strategic initiatives for the BIZ, believes getting the city's top CEOs to cuddle up in the cold has warmed some hearts and opened some wallets.

"There's a heightened awareness among the public and the corporate community," Syvixay said, stressing donors can still help the cause by visiting

"The donations aren't always huge dollar amounts. They may only be $5 or $10, but they all make a difference."

Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown BIZ, said it's not just about raising cash; it's also about raising awareness of the corporate community's role in solving the crisis.

"Winnipeg CEOs and community leaders need to tackle homelessness together," Grande said. "Governments and non-profits on the front lines can't solve this issue alone. The private sector has a stake and responsibility to push this issue forward."

It's a message at least one downtown business owner and sleepout participant has taken to heart.

"People on our streets deserve a good life, a permanent stable home, and supports," said Ari Driver, owner of Perfume Paradise on Vaughan Street and head of the BIZ's panhandling and homelessness committee.

"Thirty-thousand people still sleep on the street every night in Canada," Driver said. "And approximately three million Canadians live in poverty, have experienced homelessness, or have come close to it.

"I tell my friends and family all the time that homelessness can happen to anyone. Just look in the mirror. We are only one paycheque or one domestic dispute away from ending up on the streets."

Which is why, before going back to bed, I'm leaving you with three important reminders:

1) The sleepout is over, but there's still time to donate;

2) We ALL have a responsibility to help;

3) There's no way I snore that loud!

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2013 A4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Trouba talks about injury and potential for Jets

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press. Local- WINTER FILE. Snowboarder at Stony Mountain Ski Hill. November 14, 2006.
  • Two Canada geese fly Wednesday afternoon at Oak Hammock Marsh- Front bird is banded for identification- Goose Challenge Day 3- - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google