Event that pampers Winnipeg sex trade workers for a night needs help

Organizers of a sleepover event that pampers Winnipeg sex trade workers for a night are looking for donations and volunteers.

Hairdressers, comforters, new makeup and manicure supplies on most wanted list for organizers

Left to right: Volunteers Dianna of the Salvation Army, Sada of the Salvation Army, Karen of Mount Carmel Clinic's Sage House and Kristi of Mount Carmel Clinic at 2:30 a.m. on a previous S.N.O.W. night. (Kristi of Mount Carmel Clinic)

Organizers of a sleepover event that pampers Winnipeg sex trade workers for a night are looking for donations and volunteers.

Safe Night Off Winnipeg streets (S.N.O.W. night) will allow women, including transgender women, to escape the streets for a night filled with movies, haircuts, hairstyling, makeup, food, movies, crafts, photos, gift bags and door prizes on Feb. 18.

"It actually feels like Christmas all over again to be somewhere where it's comfortable and safe and off the streets, sober," said a S.N.O.W. night participant who is protecting her identity. 

She's gone to the event almost half a dozen times and her favourite part is getting a makeover.

These mannequins were decorated by women who work and live on the streets in Winnipeg at a past S.N.O.W. night. They answered the question, "What does dignity mean to you?" (Dianna Bussey of Salvation Army)
"I remember the first time I came to S.N.O.W. night. It felt good to be here, to be pampered. I felt loved and cared for," she said.

The first time she attended the event, she was working as a prostitute and was addicted to drugs and alcohol, she said.

"All the supports are here. They're the ones volunteering and doing our nails and stuff, so it makes us feel comfortable."

Now she's off the streets and has a family.

When women walk in for  S.N.O.W. night, they get to pick out a new comforter, pillow, pyjamas, socks, underwear and toiletries that they can keep. 

"This is a way to celebrate them and honour them and a chance for them to have a break at night," said Dianna Bussey, director of the Salvation Army Correctional and Justice Services in Winnipeg. "It's kind of like a pyjama party." 

The S.N.O.W. pile of comforters from the 2015 event. (Sada of Salvation Army)
Over the past eight years, the number of participants has grown. Earlier years saw about 80 participants, last year saw more than 100 and this year, organizers are preparing for 125 guests. In the past, participants have lined up in the February cold to wait for the door to open, Bussey said.

"It's difficult after a night for those women who don't have a home," she said. "They're going back to a shelter. It's hard to see. It's hard to live it."

The Salvation Army, Mount Carmel Clinic, Sage House, Winnipeg Police Service, Main Street Project and Klinic Community Health will be at the event to offer resources. 

Some of the women may live with violence, poverty and addictions, but the night brings out the women's resiliency, Bussey said.

"They're able to laugh. They're able to have fun. They're able to relax despite some pretty significant challenges," she said. "As much as we think we have something to give, they have lots to give as well."

Organizers of S.N.O.W. night are looking for the following:

  • Licensed hairdressers or someone who can braid.
  • People with cars who can pick up deliveries in the weeks leading up to the event.
  • New double and queen-sized comforters for the participants to keep.
  • XL or XXL pyjamas.
  • Door prizes for draws that will happen every hour.
  • New makeup and manicure supplies.
  • Financial donations, which will get a tax receipt.

New items can be dropped off at the Salvation Army at 324 Logan Ave., or contact Sada Fenton at 204-949-2100 or