Who's Sleeping Out

Sleeping out is personal to me. As the mother of a special needs teenager who struggles with mental health challenges, I am frequently reminded of how easy it is for any youth, despite their home life, to slip into homelessness and despair. Through my daughter, I have met teens who have used and relied on the Covenant House's invaluable services. From their food services to their schooling and emergency shelter services, they provide comfort and hope to many youth who don't, for whatever reason, have their basic needs met. The youth of today are the future of tomorrow and it is up to all of us to make sure that they have the tools they need to succeed no matter what their challenges or background.

I’m sleeping out because every kid deserves a safe place to call home. Especially when home is a tough place to call safe.

On May 25th, for the second time since I was a homeless child, I will be "sleeping out" to raise money and awareness for Covenant House. Last year in the days leading up to the sleep-out, my fear of the triggers that I knew I would experience was overwhelming … I was terrified that I would end up melting down in front of the 81 amazing women that were going to be sleeping on the streets all around me. As we were getting ready to sleep on the cardboard cushioned pavement surrounded by fences and law enforcement, I experienced a safety and comfort that did not exist for me when I was living on the streets.
From the age of 13 to 14 1/2 I slept on park benches, in apartment complex saunas, and in abandoned buildings (always upright, keeping my back against a wall near a window or other escape route.). Unlike the sleep-out I spent most of the time completely alone, and without even the comfort of cardboard to ease harsh surfaces. When it was cold I only had the clothes on my back; I had no protection from the elements on those park bench nights. I went through many periods where I had no food for 3 and 4 days at a time, and no idea when I would be lucky enough to eat again. I bathed in the sinks of public restrooms with my clothing on. Sometimes, out of desperation, I would wait until the cover of night and walk fully clothed into the ocean to bathe and rinse my clothing. On most days people would pass me by without so much as making eye contact. Days would pass with no human contact or conversation. All of this, and I know that I was one of the lucky ones; I was only raped a few times, my time being trafficked was for labour not sex.

Between 2 and 48 hours on the street a homeless child WILL be approached by a predator/exploiter.

I had the honour of speaking at the first Women Unite Sleep-Out … as I spoke, I was barely able to hold it together … my voice cracked and tears fell as my heart broke for myself … for that little 13 year old girl. I had just finished touring Covenant House and witnessed first-hand all of the incredible things that they provide for homeless children. Healthcare, job training, mentorship, psychological services, education, transitional housing -and most importantly, a sense of family … more than a sense, they are a family. The staff (I prefer to call them parents) grow and heal these kids so that they can go on to have a bright future; seeing all of what Covenant House does for these kids makes me wonder how different my life would have been had I been fortunate enough to be rescued by them. I am often asked why and how am I able to speak out and share my story. It’s selfish in a way, I am doing for homeless children what I wish someone had done for me … somehow that heals me. Please help keep Covenant House to be able to continue to help children who are on the streets, at-risk and/or being trafficked.

EVERY penny counts - My goal this year is 25,000.00 - please donate whatever you can.

91% of every dollar we raise goes directly to her to helping homeless kids. Covenant House is Canada’s largest agency serving at-risk, homeless and trafficked youth.
Covenant House Toronto supports as many as 250 children every day. For 35 years, Covenant House Toronto has helped ~95,000 homeless children have the opportunity and hope to move from a life on the street to a life with a future.

SUSAN KELLY

SENIOR DIRECTOR-BUSINESS & RIGHTS
CBC TELEVISION
Why I'm Sleeping Out Sponsor Me

When I was a teenager, as part of a school assignment I had the opportunity to shadow a young person from Covenant House for a day to get a feel for what street youth contend with on a daily basis. This had a lasting impact on me, as I am very fortunate to have a large extended family and lots of people to turn to in times of crisis, and living on the street was never something that I would have contemplated. I understand that there are a lot of teenagers who end up on the street because they feel they have no place else to go. Covenant House is a safe and welcoming place for those youths to ground themselves and move forward in their lives. I'm so excited to be able to support this cause and hope that others feel the same way, either by joining us or donating to our fundraising goal!

Leigh is a mother of two teens- past Board member and President of the Board at Jessie’s, The June Callwood Centre for Young Women. Always passionate about helping today’s youth. Former impact investor innovator, and investment banker- Leigh now runs Discerning Seniors Inc which helps seniors find the care options they need to enjoy life.

I feel so grateful that I am getting involved in this. I always thought about doing more to help the less fortunate youth of Toronto but have never participated in anything like this before. I’ve considered other ways to volunteer but doing this, I am really getting the experience of what these youth go through. It’s hard to understand how they must feel: hungry, cold and very misunderstood. How can anybody know this poverty exists and not want to help!. I have a teenage son and I can’t imagine how it would be for him on the street alone and afraid. That makes my heart break and yet there are thousands every year that live that reality. If I can make any changes for the better for these youth I will be happy! Really deep thanks to all that do good things to inspire people like me and make an impact we might never fully understand.

FATE SAGHIR

VP, MARKET STRATEGY & INNOVATION
IMG FINANCIAL
Why I'm Sleeping Out Sponsor Me

Fate Saghir leads the Market Strategy & Innovation team for IGM Financial. In this newly created mandate, Fate and her team are responsible for leading research, insights, market strategy, and innovation. Their goal is to enable fact based decision-making while supporting a culture anchored on innovation and design thinking. Fate joined Mackenzie Investments in February of 2017 to lead the Client Experience & Engagement team. Fate is passionate about employee engagement, data-driven decision making and developing winning strategies. Prior to joining IGM Financial, Fate held various roles at Manulife which included Cross-sell Strategy & Development, Retail Strategy & Business Development, and Product Management. Fate has also held positions at MetLife and Lafarge. Fate has a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Windsor located in her hometown and is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CMA).

Janice Watson works as Director, Talent Management & Organizational Development for IGM. Outside of work, Janice has a passion for travel and has visited 37 countries to date (and counting). Giving back to the community is important to Janice personally, but she also wants to set a good example of her 6 year old son – Clark. This is Janice’s first time attending the sleep out event and she is excited to be able to join the community of woman who will be participating.