A spokesperson for Today House in Steinbach says their CEO Sleepout was so successful that first year, that they decided to try it again. On Thursday of this week, at least 40 participants are expected to spend the night at K.R. Barkman Park for the 5th annual edition.
Chair Simone Penner explains Today House is an overnight emergency shelter that provides a bed, warm food, shower and clothes if need be. They are situated in a bungalow with four single beds in the basement and house parents that love and take care of them overnight. The shelter is open from 5 pm to 8 am.
Penner says last year the shelter hosted about 130 individuals. She notes there is no rhyme or reason why certain periods are busier than others. For example, this summer has seen increased activity, though Penner says it has actually been a very beautiful summer without a lot of mosquitoes. Of course, in a perfect world, Penner says they wouldn't be very busy at all.
According to Penner, homelessness in Steinbach is not visible. Instead of bagging on street corners or pushing a shopping cart, Steinbach's homeless community includes couch surfers, individuals with mental health issues or those who are in abusive relationships. In fact, she says last year they hosted a guest with his Masters in Divinity. Penner says for whatever reason he was out of a home.
The CEO Sleepout is a way to raise funds and also a means of creating awareness. Penner says last year it raised $56,000 and the goal is hit that mark again at this week's event. She notes without government funding, they rely on donations and the CEO Sleepout is able to raise enough money to cover their budget for nearly an entire year.
It appears participation will be down a little from last year, but Penner is excited that this year there will be some first-time participants. Those who take part will hear from J'Lynn Johnson of Lighthouse Mission who will share firsthand experience of being homeless. There will also be some sort of poverty activity and participants can then spend the night at the park.
Penner says the CEO Sleepout is a great way to show the community that as it gets bigger, this creates certain issues.
"We invite community leaders and CEO's in Steinbach and surrounding area to participate in the CEO Sleepout," notes Penner. "We invite them to bring their sleeping bags and be a part of creating awareness in the community about homelessness."
Anyone needing assistance through Today House or for those wishing to sponsor or take part in Thursday's event should visit www.todayhouse.ca.