Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City's powerful hit the streets for homeless

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REAL Cloutier isn't taking any chances with where he's going to sleep on Sept. 27.

The chief operating officer of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority was scoping out the cosiest spots at Portage and Main Friday morning.

He's one of about 50 business and community leaders taking part in the second annual Change for the Better CEO Sleepout at the end of the month.

They will huddle in their sleeping bags to raise money and awareness of homelessness and poverty in Winnipeg.

"I want something comfy and I like trees. When you grow up with six brothers, you always have your back covered," Cloutier said.

In all seriousness, he said, working in the health-care field gives him a first-hand view of how homelessness impacts health. For example, in working with Main Street's Bell Hotel, which was redeveloped last year into 42 affordable housing units for people who used to be homeless, he has seen emergency room visits by tenants decline 80 per cent.

"Some of them had 100 visits a year," he said.

The leaders who will participate in the sleepout, revealed Friday morning, include Kelvin Shepherd, president of MTS, Rick Frost, CEO of the Winnipeg Foundation, and Marina James, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg.

Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown BIZ, which is spearheading the sleepout, said with another dozen participants this year, he's hoping to raise $150,000, up from $100,000 in 2011.

He said three main things came out of last year's event -- the level of public awareness went from "zero to 100 overnight," a poverty-reduction council was created with a 10-year plan to end homelessness, and $100,000 was donated to Siloam Mission, Graffiti Art Programming and Red Road Lodge.

Some of the funds raised this year will come from the sale of sterling silver bracelets designed by Mona Stott, owner of Mokada Jewelry. She was approached to help out a couple of weeks ago and came up with a piece that features the arrow from the Change For the Better logo. Ten per cent of the $70 price will be donated to the cause but more importantly, she's hoping the bracelets will be noticed and start conversations about homelessness.

"There's nothing better than having corporate people wearing them," she said, adding she'll try to peddle some to her fellow sleepout participants.

Stott said she agreed to participate in the sleepout because in order to fully appreciate what homeless people go through, you have to walk in their shoes.

"It doesn't matter who you are, mental health affects everyone, from CEOs to students to children. It doesn't discriminate. We shouldn't turn a blind eye to it," she said.


To donate, visit and click on the photo of the CEO or celebrity participant you wish to support, sign up for automatic payroll deductions at your workplace or drop off cheques at the Downtown BIZ office at 426 Portage Ave.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 15, 2012 0

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