About half of my adult life has been lived in the North End of Winnipeg, and the other half in Japan. In both situations I was involved in education and community development work that has allowed for some reflection and familiarity with the differences in the kinds of poverty that occur in various places. For the past 5 years I’ve worked as the Community Education Coordinator at Siloam Mission, speaking frequently to students in schools about how the most effective ways to fight poverty and homelessness is to build healthy communities.
A particular focus has been on telling stories that get younger and older learners alike thinking about the root themes of community building. In 2016 our community education department published a children's book/CD called Blink's Garden. The story explores the idea that often the greatest health for a community comes in connecting with those who have typically been pushed to the edges of society. This story, along with talks about "The 7 Types of Power" and "The 2 Types of Poverty" help to take apart big, unwieldy concepts like power for an up close look at how it relates to poverty.
Dr. John Rook is a passionate servant leader who champions the belief that poverty can be solved. With a doctorate from Oxford University, he has spent years both at the front lines and in academia to gain both a theoretical and practical understanding of the issues facing people in poverty. It is this perspective that makes him a desired speaker at conferences and mentor to many who struggle with solutions.
Dr. Rook has lectured for diverse audiences; academic, professional, governmental and theological. He tackles topics related to both poverty and prosperity and policy change. He unravels the theoretical and connects the dots between historical and current research. More importantly, he has a practical sense of the reality of poverty from several decades of work in the trenches. For six years he chaired the National Council of Welfare and reported to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development,(listed as the National Housing Association), proposing recommendations for improving Canadian lives to the Canadian Parliament. From 2000 to 2010 he worked for the Salvation Army and for six years was CEO of their Community Services which included the Booth Centre and Centre of Hope homeless projects.
He has received numerous recognitions for his work from the City of Burlington, Ontario’s Celebration of Service Award (1996) to the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2013). He is a published author and has served on local, provincial and national boards. He sat on the Provincial Interagency Council on Homelessness and chaired the Research committee. He is a board member of the Basic Income Canada Network and Vibrant Communities Calgary. He is the Founding Director of the Canadian Poverty Institute at Ambrose University in Calgary and currently is Director of Strategic Initiatives and Managing Director (Calgary) for the Mustard Seed Society.
John and Kim have four boys, three foster children and four grandchildren.
Al Wiebe has lived experience of what it’s like to tumble from a successful career to homelessness, living in a car, depressed and contemplating suicide. Today we get to hear some of his story and what it took for him to beat the odds to regain hope, healing and community.
Al is a social worker and runs a support group working with people who are homeless, helping them to find the hope, healing and community they need. Al is a strong advocate for decent and affordable housing.
Bev Dyck is the Program Director of the Housing and Supports division of Eden Health Care Services. She has been with the Eden organization 17 years. Bev’s education and experience in social work brings a compassionate, community development understanding into her work in leading the Housing and Supports program of a mental health service delivery organization.
Her work in the First Nations Communities near Port Hardy under a Mennonite Central Committee volunteer program earlier, inspired her views of seeing housing as a social justice issue. Bev calls rural Manitoba home, having built her own straw bale house on a prairie acreage where she remains closely connected to her farm roots.
Bev enjoys hockey, curling, horsemanship and follows her active nephews in some of these activities.
Lori Penner is the Community Development Coordinator at Winkler Central Station Community Center. Lori oversees two programs through the Safe Communities Initiative, Community Care Program and as Property Manager for Winkler Affordable Housing. Before this role Lori worked in various roles with survivors of domestic violence at Genesis House. Lori holds a Certificate in Counseling from the University of Manitoba and a Certificate in Mediation and Conflict Resolution Skills through Mediation Services. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her husband Darrel and son Levi.
Carolyn has worked with the Province of Manitoba since 1999, with most of her career having been spent at Manitoba Housing where she currently serves as the A/Chief Operating Officer. She has her Masters in Social Work from the University of Manitoba, and also holds Bachelor of Social Work and Bachelor of Arts (Economics) degrees. Carolyn, her husband and their two daughters reside in Oakbank, Manitoba.
October 10, 2018
Emmanual Mennonite Church
Registration starts at 8 a.m. Presentation begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m.
Faces of Homelessness
We’re all aware of the obvious scenes of homelessness in our country, but homelessness is often hidden in the shadows. There are ‘everyday’ people you work with, eat lunch beside, or are in community with that are dealing with overwhelming debt, or loss…and are homeless. They look just like you and I.
The stories we want to share with you are stories based on very real situations all around us. They may not have the same name, but each of these 5 people represent common and unknown situations that many are living out. Our aim is to shed light on the many faces of homelessness; to bring an awareness about those in our communities and move them to action.
Faces of Homelessness - Single Mom - Carla
I used to dream of being a mother. Having my kids in the house while I cooked supper, hearing about their day and the adventures they’d gone on.
When I met Justin I thought ‘this is the beginning of my family’. We started dating and he made me feel so good about myself. About 6 months later, I got pregnant and within a week, he was gone, and I was on my own to figure this out.
I was working part time at a restaurant, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay there too long, so I got a job at a local big box store. Pregnancy was hard on me; I was sick often and I had to miss a lot of work. When I talked with my manager, she told me that I wouldn’t have enough hours to get maternity leave.
I was only 21 when Sandy was born. I was living with my auntie, but she has three kids of her own and we were running out of room. I don’t have money to feed Sandy, so I will need to apply for welfare. Someone told me about a community food bank that I could talk to as well.
I have to find somewhere else to live in the next month or so, but I am not sure how I will pay the rent.
Faces of Homelessness - Teenager - Dwayne
My family isn’t like other families. I remember my brother and I coming home from school to find my mom crying in the kitchen and my dad in the living room, yelling about whatever he was mad about that day. My parents divorced when I was in grade 9, and my mom left our city to live with her sister. I was stuck at home with my little brother, and my dad, who is a total jerk.
I would stay out as late as I could and sometimes stay at a friends to avoid going home. Eventually, my dad noticed and started making his disappointment in me really clear. He’s only hit me once, but it was the last time I was going to let it happen. I left that night.
I don’t take about it much, just tell my friends that I need a place to crash for a night or two. I stay here and there. I tried to get a job at a restaurant in town, but when they started asking about where I lived, and my parents I figured it wasn’t worth it.
I feel guilty for leaving my brother at home, but I can't go back. At this rate, there is no point in me still going to school. I’ll just ride this out as long as I can and see where I end up.
Faces of Homelessness - Post College Grad - Marissa
I didn’t think this is what my life would look like. After graduating from high school with honours, I completed my post secondary education 4 years later. I was sure I would land a great paying job once I’d finished my education, but I was turned down for student loans and had limited financial aid. I worked at two part time jobs, just to pay for textbooks and the tuition my financial aid didn’t cover.
I made it though school with a degree, and $50,000 of debt. I found a small apartment and applied at a number of places in my field. None of them were hiring for the position I had worked so hard for, so I took and intern position. The pay was almost nothing compared to my mounting debts. There were nights where I had to decide whether I would pay rent or eat.
I lost my apartment and moved into a friends basement. Soon after, my position was cut from the company I worked for and I was completely without a job. There was a shortage of positions in my field, so I took a job at a local retail store.
I had to file for bankruptcy that year. I lost the little that I had, and was left with a useless degree in a field that wasn’t hiring.
Faces of Homelessness - Elderly Man - Frank
I haven’t always been this way you know. I had a job, a house, a family.
I used to be a manager in a factory on the other side of the city. I started there when I was 18 - just a young spark looking to find a job that would pay me enough to buy a pick up truck. Then I met Gladys. She was beautiful, smart, so kind. She worked with kids down at the daycare, and I thought about her day and night. I asked if I could take her for a milkshake and to my surprise, she said yes. I worked hard to save up as much as I could, and the next summer I married Gladys and we moved into our first home.
Life was good; we had two boys - one like me, and one just like Gladys’ dad - spitting image. I thought we were doing well, but I guess I had started to drink a bit more than I thought. A beer on the deck after supper turned into four, and looking back, it rarely stopped at four either.
It got to the point that I would go to work drunk, and before long, I’d lost my job, my wife and the boys left and went to stay with her mother, and I had nothing. I lost the house soon after, and within months I found myself here…on the street.
I get by ok, people are nice here, but it’s cold some nights, and the shelter down the street can only take in so many. I get one good meal a day at the food kitchen, and sometimes they let us take a shower and clean up a bit. They even brought in a hair dresser if we wanted a hair cut.
I’m stuck here. No one has given me a chance, or a second look really. I find myself at 55 saying the same thing I did at 18 - I just want a job that pays enough to get by.
Faces of Homelessness - Family - Jamie and Janine Malcom
When I arrived in Canada 15 years ago, I thought I would have every opportunity to give the family I would one day have a great life. I worked on my citizenship and 2 years later, was married and expecting our first child. Zachary has just turned 2.
I had been a welder before I arrived in Canada, and found a position welding here fairly quickly; I have even worked towards further certification. I was working with the same company for almost 9 years when we saw a downturn in our industry. I had heard talk of layoffs, but when the piece of paper was in my hand, I didn’t know how to tell my wife. We had just found out that we were expecting our second child.
We had never bought a house, just rented, and now there was no way for us to look for one in the coming spring. I thought I would find another job quickly, but it was the middle of January, bills from Christmas were coming in and I needed to find a job quickly.
I was forced to take a minimum wage job at a local gas station. Money is extremely tight, forcing my pregnant wife to look for a job that would give her enough hours to qualify for maternity leave.
We were behind a couple months on rent, and had to leave our apartment. A nice family from our church offered us their basement until we could get back on our feet, but I had no idea how we would have any money to feed our family, pay for a new baby or find a place to live.
Wednesday, October 10
8:00 - 8:50am — Registration/Check-in
8:50 - 9:00am — Welcome
9:00 - 10:15am — John Rook
10:15 - 10:30am — Break
10:30 - 11:00am — Bev Dyck & Lori Penner
11:00 - 12:00pm — John Janzen
12:00 - 1:00pm — Lunch
1:00 - 2:00pm — Al Wiebe
2:00 - 2:15pm — Break
2:15 - 3:00pm — Carolyn Ryan
3:00 - 3:45pm — John Rook
3:45 - 4:00pm — Wrap up
4:00pm — Farewell
Eden Healthcare Services
For more information contact: Agatha Fehr
309 Main Street
Toll Free: 1-866-895-2919
Tel: (204) 325-5355
Fax: (204) 325-8742