The Siloam Sleepout participants endured a thunderstorm overnight, fitting ironically well the sleepout's theme this year of 'The Perfect Storm'.

"This is the second year since we've taken over what used to be the CEO Sleepout for the Downtown Winnipeg Biz. Last year we introduced the Siloam Sleepout in person but this year we had to move things to virtual," says Luke Thiessen, the Communications Manager at Siloam Mission.

The idea of the sleepout is to have people spend the night outside in downtown Winnipeg as well as learn about some of the realities people experiencing homelessness go through on a regular basis. 

Going virtual meant " finding ways to do the educational portion and experiential portion without being gathered together in one space," says Thiessen.

There were fifteen to twenty people that participated this year, down from last year's participants.

"We encouraged participants to find a space either outside or in some setting where they were challenging themselves to sleep rough in whatever way they could."

People included in the sleepout needed to find an uncomfortable spot outside that still had access to wifi for the educational portion. 

"We held a panel discussion and some interactive educational sessions over zoom, then let people choose their own activities overnight if they wanted to stay up or try and get some sleep in whatever environment they were in."

Thiessen was helping lead most of this event so he was awake throughout the night. Together everyone involved raised over $24,000, exceeding their goal of $20,000. 

Last year there was a severe storm that drove participants inside of Siloam Mission, rather than being able to stay outside the whole time at True North Square. 

This year they experienced another thunderstorm overnight, but according to Thiessen, it wasn't as threatening as last year.

"When we regrouped at six in the morning, some of the folks outside said they either got really wet or as one gentleman did, moved into his shed for a couple of hours."

The teaching portion was based around the 'perfect storm' of how people end up without a place to call home.

"The idea is that there are so many factors, from family history to being failed by government systems, to cycles of poverty, our history with Indigenous people, and the generational impact of that."

The online experiences included a virtual blanket exercise, a panel discussion of lived experience and subject matter experts, and interactive group exercises.

"It's always a powerful experience, in many cases learning things you may have already known but experiencing them in a more real way, and together with other people," says Thiessen.

Even though last year this fundraiser brought in $41,000, almost double of this year, Thiessen says they were expecting fewer numbers due to the pandemic.

"Whatever information you retain, we just hope that people come out of it with a deeper empathy, compassion, and understanding of why people are homeless and how they can help."

Siloam Mission has been helping the less fortunate in Winnipeg and surrounding areas since 1987.