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Steeves invited to feed poor

Welcome to help: Bannock Lady

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Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press 
Althea Guiboche says Gord Steeves and his wife, Lorrie, need to put action behind their words.

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Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press Althea Guiboche says Gord Steeves and his wife, Lorrie, need to put action behind their words.

After racially charged Facebook comments made by Lorrie Steeves, mayoral candidate Gord Steeves' wife, surfaced Friday, Althea Guiboche was fed up.

Lorrie Steeves wrote she "is really tired of getting harrassed (sic) by the drunken native guys in the skywalks," as a status on her personal Facebook page in 2010. A screen grab of the status popped up on Twitter Friday from a little-known Twitter user named @DarlingDarleneJ and went viral.

"I'm just so sick of it. There's reasons why these people are out there and... a lot of it has to do with a breakdown in society. I wouldn't want to go through what they've had to gone through," Guiboche, a.k.a. the Bannock Lady, said.

Rather than fire back at Lorrie Steeves with more rhetoric, Guiboche invited Gord and Lorrie Steeves and any other person who wants to help feed the homeless to come assist her on the corner of Main Street and Dufferin Avenue today at 3 p.m. Every Sunday for the last 19 months, Guiboche has been serving bannock on the street to those who are hungry. She usually serves about 100 people per week, and her bannock supply is gone in less than a half-hour.

"If they're serious about being sorry, then they should try and make it a priority to come out," Guiboche said.

The Steeveses didn't return requests for comments Saturday, though Lorrie Steeves emailed a news release to local media around 6 p.m. Friday offering an official apology.

"In 2010, while I was working downtown, I was regularly harassed for money and often put in a position where I feared for my safety. One day in particular, four years ago, was very bad, and out of frustration I vented on my personal Facebook page. I feel terrible about these comments. I am terribly sorry and apologize. I do not clear my Facebook posts or status updates with my husband," Steeves wrote.

"Words have no meaning if they have no actions behind it," Guiboche said. "If she is sincerely sorry, she will show up -- she should show up."

Although she extended the invite for the Steeves to join her serving bannock, Guiboche said they can come on any Sunday. She has already hosted mayoral candidates Judy Wasylycia-Leis and Paula Havixbeck, while Robert-Falcon Ouellette and Brian Bowman are scheduled to join her in the following weeks.

"When I'm hungry, I'm like a big grizzly bear and I get grouchy. I can't imagine how (the homeless) must feel starving all day, going hungry and feeling weak, and then having people disrespect them on top of it all," Guiboche said.

"We should be helping (the homeless). Winnipeg has made it a priority to address homelessness, and her comments are totally against what we're doing."

Guiboche noted the positive impact local events like the CEO Sleepout have had in combating homelessness and stereotyping. A news conference announcing the 2014 CEO Sleepout lineup was held Thursday, and Gord Steeves attended. Steeves wasn't scheduled to participate in the event, however, as of Saturday.

Guiboche said she plans to interview all of the mayoral candidates about their stances on homelessness before election day, Oct. 22. She wants to share her ideas about how to improve life for the city's most vulnerable citizens.

"I would like to see a recycling program for certain plastics that gives (the homeless) a money option, and gives them something to do all day. They pick up scrap metal all over, and that's their source of income. If Winnipeg had a plastics recycling refund program, that would be another option, and the city would be so much cleaner."

jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2014 A3

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