MEDIA RELEASE: 100+ Leaders Take to the Streets for 5th Annual CEO Sleepout

Downtown Winnipeg – “We are all stakeholders” – this is the guiding thought behind the annual CEO Sleepout held at Portage and Main. In its fifth year, the event aims to raise $200,000 to create employment opportunities for the homeless but to also spur important dialogue among over 100 CEOs, community leaders, and media about their role in addressing homelessness.

Throughout the evening, participants will hear from young leaders like Nathan Unrau of Lunches With Love and Callie Costello of Callie’s Backpacks for Winnipeg’s Homeless, representatives from all levels of government, CEOs of businesses big and small, and social agencies – highlighting the need for combined efforts towards ending homelessness. Tours throughout the downtown will be led by those with lived experience, presenting a night-in-the-life of those least fortunate. “Year after year, the CEO Sleepout raises awareness and funds to end homelessness, and in doing so, proves that Winnipeg is a caring community that works together to build a stronger city,” says Mayor Brian Bowman. “It will take our entire community working together, including government, private sector, and non-profit organizations to help end homelessness. City Council has committed $150,000 per year to fund the United Way's Plan to End Homelessness, and as Mayor, and as a CEO Sleepout participant for 3 years, I am proud to be a part of a change for the better.”

“Lots of good can come from just one night,” says Stefano Grande, Executive Director of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ. “Homelessness will continue to exist even after the CEO Sleepout. This unfortunate reality is an important reality check for many of our participants. The event encourages our city’s prominent CEOs and community leaders to look at the world differently and provides them a chance to pause and take stock of the influence they can have in the lives of those least fortunate.”

Since its inception in 2011, the CEO Sleepout has fundraised more than half a million dollars to employ 137 individuals who are homeless – providing shelter, quality of life supports, and an opportunity to contribute back to the city in a positive and meaningful way. Many of these individuals have returned to school or found permanent full-time jobs – prospects once considered unattainable due to the numerous barriers facing those deeply entrenched in the cycle of poverty and homelessness. The narratives of Winnipeggers who have overcome this struggle through the support of the community and the CEO Sleepout are documented in Stories of Change, available at www.theceosleepout.ca/blog. With employment and housing connections, they have painted murals downtown, planted flowers, swept sidewalks, ploughed snow during the winter, and have helped out at various downtown events.

Take for example, Mike Haskins, who was hired by Siloam Mission through funds raised by the CEO Sleepout, to engage in various downtown beautification projects, litter cleanup, and snow shoveling. Within a couple of years of working at Siloam Mission, Mike has now transitioned to full-time employment as a team member of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ’s Metro Enviro-Team. “When people hear the word ‘homeless’, they think ‘drug users’ or ‘those guys don’t want to work’. That’s not true,” says Haskins. “I’ve been told in the past to get a real job. Well now I have one. I’m keeping the streets clean, and that’s important. When people see us out there with our vests on, doing our work, they realize that we want to contribute. We want to keep contributing. We all need to pitch in.”

More than 100 CEOs, community leaders, and members of the media will take to the streets on September 24 and are listed at www.theceosleepout.ca. Participants of the CEO Sleepout can be sponsored online and/or general donations can be done in three ways:

About the CEO Sleepout

Since 2011, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ has made a commitment to help address long-term social and economic costs of homelessness. The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ organized its fourth annual CEO Sleepout in 2014 which recruited and mobilized over 150 leaders from the private and public sectors to help bring attention and awareness to the intricate and complex issue of homelessness in our city and downtown community. Over $200,000 was raised to support social agencies in their efforts to employ their participants and in providing them with quality-of-life supports and access to housing.

Since 2011, over $600,000 has been raised by the private sector, helping to employ 137 people experiencing homelessness for more than 51,000 hours of employment — with many of these individuals returning to school or finding permanent full-time work. This event has also ignited a desire from the private/public sector to work together towards the creation of a long-term strategy to end homelessness through the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council’s (WPRC) Task Force to End Homelessness, co-chaired by SEED Winnipeg’s Cindy Coker and RBC’s Rob Johnston, who have taken part in the CEO Sleepout annually since the event’s inception. The plan was created in consultation with cities from all across North America, with consideration of indigenous perspectives, insights from social agencies working on the front lines and the voice of the business community.

In late 2014, the CEO Sleepout was acknowledged by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) for its work in raising the corporate community’s awareness about homelessness and the importance of private and public sector collaboration end it, beating finalists like Delta Vancouver Suites (Vancouver, BC) and Eaton Chelsea (Toronto, ON). Partnerships with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, Coldest Night of the Year, and 5 Days for the Homeless, emphasize the CEO Sleepout’s aim towards collaboration across various sectors.

The CEO Sleepout is an initiative of Downtown Winnipeg BIZ and is generously supported by many partners: The Creaddo Group, Manitoba Public Insurance, Visual Lizard, Guppy Graphic Design, Canadian Footwear, SRS Signs & Service, Leif Norman, Impact Security Group, Impark, and Harvard Property Management.

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For more information, please contact:

Jason Syvixay, Managing Director

Tel: (204) 958-4635; Cell: 997-3040 jason@downtownwinnipegbiz.com

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