Homeless, mentally ill get to work on creativity

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS  |  MARCH 6, 2015  |  Kevin Rollason

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Jamie Hogaboam (left) and Michael Turner, two artists who are currently homeless, said the CEO Sleepout fundraiser helped them create and sell their art. [DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS]

Artists Jamie Hogaboam and Michael Turner aren’t starving, but they are homeless.

Now both are hoping money raised by the Downtown BIZ’s annual CEO Sleepout will not only help them create and sell their art, but will eventually enable them to put a roof over their heads.

Turner said the program is “great. There’s no cost to the artist. You get free studio space, and when you sell your work you get 100 per cent of the sale.

“Everyone is so appreciative of this program.”

The pair is among 50 homeless people who will get work after the Downtown BIZ officially turned over the $205,000 raised at last year’s fourth-annual fundraiser to Graffiti Art Programming, Red Road Lodge, Siloam Mission, Artbeat Studio, Macdonald Youth Services, and Union Gospel Mission so they can offer employment to people who are homeless.

The money raised will also help leverage almost $1 million more for the program so participants can work a total of 19,524 hours.

This year, Artbeat is getting $30,000 of the money to hire 15 people living with mental illness to work 3,000 hours in total, including managing an art boutique on the second floor of Portage Place, where their creations can be sold.

Hogaboam participated in the Artbeat Studio program, which the fundraiser paid for last year, while Turner is in this year’s program.

Hogaboam said it was an incredible feeling in December when a couple came in to the boutique and bought one of his paintings.

“I was sitting having a coffee after my shift ended and another one of the staff said they just sold one of my paintings,” he said.

“You just can’t imagine how wonderful it felt. Before my breakdown, I was putting in 60 hours a week at a job just to keep an apartment, but I wasn’t able to do any artwork. Now I can.”

Earlier, federal Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages Shelly Glover said she is grateful for the help from business leaders because “it’s almost impossible to do it alone.”

Mayor Brian Bowman said to end homelessness “it really does take an entire community working together.”

Manitoba MLA Bidha Jha said “There is no problem without a solution.”

The work the homeless will be given also includes helping with beautification projects downtown, snow shovelling and litter pickup.

Since 2011, 137 people have received 51,000 hours of work because of the fundraiser.

The next CEO Sleepout is Sept. 24.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2015 A2