Busting Myths About Homelessness Part 1

by kristinm
Categories: Blog, Uncategorized

    In early March, CBC Manitoba Information Radio spent the morning broadcasting live from The Salvation Army Winnipeg Centre of Hope. Host Marcy Markusa and producer Cory Funk talked with clients and staff to get a sense of the reality of shelter life and uncover and dispel commonly held myths about the people who rely on shelter services.

    Below, you can hear interviews with Major Bruce MacKenzie, assistant executive director of the Winnipeg Centre of Hope, an asylum seeker who was a former resident of the Son Rise family shelter within the Centre of Hope, and current resident Sean Black, a man who represents the average person who stays at the Centre.

    The morning began with the history of The Salvation Army in Winnipeg from Major Bruce McKenzie.

    LISTEN: https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-29/clip/16047277

    Asylum Seekers & Refugees

    One of the most pressing issues facing the shelter system in Winnipeg at the moment is an influx of refugees and asylum seekers coming to the city with no place to stay. Markusa spoke with a man who arrived in Winnipeg from Uganda in November with his wife and two young children. Upon arriving via train, the family had nowhere to go but found the Centre of Hope online. After a four-month stay and support from The Salvation Army to connect to service providers, the family is now in their own apartment.

    “We spent two days in the train. It wasn’t easy. My kids had nowhere to sleep, and they got sick. And that night [we arrived] was spent at the Union Station because we had nowhere to go. We had no money for the hotel. We didn’t know anyone here. Internet was our best friend. We checked online [and found] the best shelter to accommodate us was the Army. They gave us a room. The kids slept for more than eight hours. I didn’t know what was going on. It was like a dream. Beside me there is a bathroom, I got to take a hot shower. All was good.”

    LISTEN: https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-29/clip/16047280

    Winnipeg Centre of Hope added 60 beds in October 2023 to address the growing need for refugees and asylum seekers.

    Men Aged 55+

    Sean became a resident of the Centre of Hope after a dispute over his late wife’s will left him with no funds and nowhere to live. Sean, a well-spoken man in his mid-fifties, is representative of the average person living at the Centre. He says that many assume homelessness is a result of addiction or irresponsibility, but that’s not always the case. Sean says is grateful to be able to have his own locked room, where he can keep to himself, but he has to take it a day at a time. Without money for a phone or to be able to access public transportation, Sean says his ability to make plans for the future is limited.

    “When you are poor, you are always stigmatized. If you have money, people love you. If you don’t have money, people will shut you down. The people of downtown are hidden to a great degree and stigmatized, stamped automatically. If I were to apply for a job and they asked for my residency I said 180 Henry, here at Salvation Army. What do you think would happen? It depends on the work agency, but you’re definitely stigmatized. Anyone could theoretically end up being homeless at any time. Even if you’ve got a lot of money, something can happen. It is in the best interests of all Winnipeggers to be able to have their leadership provide stable housing and enough housing for the residents.”

    LISTEN: https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-29/clip/16047281

    Part two, coming soon, will feature interviews with the mobile outreach team, current resident Michelle McNallie, and Steven Hunter, a staff member with lived-experience.