Executive ‘Sleep Out’ raises more than $900,000 for homeless youth


Prominent Canadian executives, including former MP Belinda Stronach, slept on the streets of Toronto to raise money for homeless kids. (Lindsay Fitzgerald / Ryersonian Staff)

The Covenant House Toronto executive sleep out beat its fundraising goal by more than $100,000 this year.

The annual fundraiser, called The Sleep Out:More than Executive Edition, sees high-profile executives and politicians sleep out for one night to experience homelessness, in 14 countries across North America.

Bruce Rivers, executive director of Covenant House Toronto, said the non-profit raised $920,000 for the youth homelessness shelter in Toronto, surpassing its goal to raise at least $800,000.

Executives spent the night outside on Nov. 20, in -17 C weather. They were given a tour of Covenant House before sleeping outdoors.

“I had my own impression of what happened at Covenant House,” said Karen Krugel, executive vice president at PRAXIS, after the tour. “I didn’t know half of what Covenant House was really doing.”

More than 10,000 homeless youth in any given year, on average, leave their homes at the age of 15, according to the Covenant House.

Rivers said that youth homelessness is getting worse in Toronto.

“It’s dismal. We fill by 2 o’clock everyday and we’re turning youth away,” he said.

Belinda Stronach, chairman of the Stronach group and co-chair of the sleep out, agrees the problem is growing.

“On any given night there’s about 2,000 young people that are homeless in Toronto,” she said. “I’m lucky that I just have to do this for one night and I can go home in the morning but many young people don’t have that opportunity.”

Covenant House provides 24/7 crisis care as well as education, a health centre, job training programs, mental health programs and other services.

The event has raised more than $1.3 million over the last three years. Donations make up more than 80 per cent of the $21.8 million operating budget for the shelter, according to the non-profit.

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