Change for the Better


May 21, 2009


WINNIPEG—The Downtown BIZ and Mayor Sam Katz kicked off an anti-panhandling program, Change for the Better, with a new focus on supporting homeless work programs on Thursday morning, May 21, outside on Graham Avenue at Donald Street. The launch also kicks off a weeklong downtown fundraising blitz for Change for the Better targeting downtown workers.

Donations to Change for the Better will now go to support homeless employment programs. These programs hire the homeless or those at risk of homelessness to clean downtown. The goal is to transition people into healthier lifestyles that include a stable home and permanent job.

“These are wonderful programs,” says Stefano Grande, Downtown BIZ executive director. “Not only do these individuals gain valuable work experience within a supportive environment, but our downtown will also be cleaner. We think downtown workers in particular will really respond to this proactive approach, and they’ll be able to see their donations at work, literally, on the streets of downtown.”

The Change for the Better program, which will now phase out the distribution of the “Blue Key” or “Help Key,” encourages the public to find a positive alternative to giving change to panhandlers.

The program has raised over $95,000 since it launched in 1992. In the past, donations supported six downtown social agencies that provide food, shelter and counselling to people in need. There are over 80 donation boxes at businesses in the downtown area.

One of the programs that will be supported is the Mission: Off the Streets Team – or MOST – which started three years ago and has seen several successes. Two members of the BIZ’s Clean Team went through the MOST program and are now featured in the Change for the Better promotional material.

“I always just wanted someone to give me an opportunity for a full-time job. That’s all I wanted. I didn’t want to go the welfare route,” says Clean Team member Brian Tait, 27. “I have a smile on my face every day when I go home now. I shake my keys. To know that everything I got is mine, I just feel better inside.”

Now, two more social agencies have come onboard with smaller, similar programs: Holy Trinity Anglican Church and the Salvation Army, who, with Siloam Mission’s MOST program, were presented with cheques for $1,500, $3,000 and $16,000 respectively for their programs. One hundred per cent of proceeds to Change for the Better will be divided between these organizations.

This Thursday and Friday, and May 25-28, from 11:30am to 1:30pm, BIZ staff will be stationed at kiosks on downtown sidewalks to raise awareness and donations for Change for the Better. To encourage people to find a positive alternative to giving to panhandlers, staff will give everyone who donates a granola bar to pass it on to panhandlers instead of giving spare change.

The launch will also include posters in business windows, brochures, and bus shelter ads and billboards courtesy of CBS Outdoor.

Special thanks to sponsors the City of Winnipeg, Winnipeg Police Service, the MLCC, Guppy Design and Lea Marc. Supported by the Exchange District BIZ and West End BIZ.


For more information, please contact:
Jennifer Verch, Manager, Communications & Marketing
Ph: (204) 958-4626 Cell: 297-0219