Mike Haskins is a living example of hope for Winnipeg’s homeless.
Two years ago, Haskins found himself living on the streets at 51 years old.
“Back then I had a small addiction to drugs,” Haskins, who was homeless for six months, said on Friday.
“I never thought I was going to become homeless, so I would spend my money carelessly and forget about bills and rent.
“Eventually it caught up to me and I became homeless. I was happy the Siloam Mission was there for me.”
Siloam Mission did more than provide shelter and food for Haskins, who received part-time employment through a program at the humanitarian organization on Princess Street. Thanks to funds raised in the annual CEO Sleepout, Haskins turned that opportunity into full-time employment with Downtown Winnipeg BIZ’s Metro Enviro-Team.
“I’ve gone from being homeless to being employed for just over a year with the BIZ,” Haskins said. “I’ve now got my own residence and I recently got married.”
That’s a far cry from where Haskins imagined he would be today without getting help.
“I think I would have still been on the streets, probably more addicted to drugs and wouldn’t have been working for the BIZ,” he said. “And I probably would have gotten into a life of crime.”
More than 100 leaders will participate in the fifth annual CEO Sleepout, which begins Thursday (8 p.m.) at 201 Portage Ave., and ends Friday (7 a.m.). The event aims to raise $200,000 to create employment opportunities for the homeless, while igniting dialogue among the CEOs about their role in addressing homelessness.
Since its inception in 2011, the CEO Sleepout has raised more than $500,000 to employ 137 people. Haskins is among those who’ve found full-time employment, while others have gone back to school.
Winnipeg Sun publisher Daria Zmiyiwsky is one of the CEOs taking part.
“When you see them hungry and going through garbage bins, it’s a tragedy,” said Zmiyiwsky, who lives downtown.
“We need to encourage Winnipeggers to go downtown and enjoy the beauty of it. We’ve got so much going on with the MTS Centre, we’ve got the new Merchant Kitchen, but I think some people are afraid of going downtown because of the homeless … but visibly there’s not enough people walking those same areas downtown.”
Many people have a misconception that homeless people are all lazy drug addicts, who don’t want to work toward a better life, Haskins said.
“They look at them like they are garbage on the street,” he said. “Everybody is there for a reason — some by their own choice and some have just fallen on hard times.
“I can remember when people used to look at me that way and it’s not fair.”
Haskins, while making his rounds at work with Downtown BIZ, far too often comes across people sleeping in bus shelters or asking for change.
“It almost brings a tear to my eyes, because this is where I was and I wish I could do more for them,” he said.
Zmiyiwsky believes the sleepout experience will only make her want to become more of an advocate for the homeless. She will also be setting up a clothes line to accept donations of women’s clothing, which will be used to help women get back into the workforce.
To learn more about the program or donate on Zmiyiwsky’s behalf, go to: http://www.theceosleepout.ca/ceo-sleepout/profile,ceo/207/daria-zmiyiwsky.
Story from the Winnipeg Sun