Homeless find shelter at Siloam… and place to work out

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HOMELESS shelter client Dave Neufeld used to drink alcohol to cope with stress. Now he's reaching for endorphins that give him a natural high when he's working out.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/07/2011 (4039 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

HOMELESS shelter client Dave Neufeld used to drink alcohol to cope with stress. Now he’s reaching for endorphins that give him a natural high when he’s working out.

“I have to keep moving,” said the 41-year-old at the grand opening of Siloam Mission’s gym Thursday. “I’ve got to keep moving or I get lazy.

“I’m a diabetic.”

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Dave Neufeld works out in Siloam Mission's new gym for their homeless clients.

The gym on the fourth floor of Siloam Mission on Princess Street is equipped with donated equipment and furnishings and will be run by volunteer fitness trainers.

It was set up by two occupational therapy students during their internship at Siloam Mission.

Siloam’s health-clinic staff said there was a need for folks using the shelter to improve their fitness, said intern Nadine Blankvoort.

She and fellow intern Craig Bennett talked to the clients and took a small group to a gym at the University of Manitoba to see if they’d like working out.

“It was so much fun,” said Bennett.

They spent their internship collecting donated gym equipment and setting up a homeless shelter fitness program — from scratch. They’d heard about soccer leagues for the homeless but couldn’t find any shelters in Canada with gyms to use as a model, said Bennett.

The people who use it have different needs than those who can afford to pay for a gym.

Living on the streets for a while can take a toll on the body, so much so that the body numbs itself, said Blankvoort.

“A big concern is you learn to not listen to your body — when you’re cold, when you’re in pain,” she said. With physical training, they learn to listen to their body and take care of it.

Both students said they were surprised by the extent of poverty in Winnipeg and who the poor are.

“It’s not who you expect it to be,” said Bennett. “There are ex-professional athletes.”

Neufeld once owned his own home in Elmwood and worked as a labourer until he lost the battle with the bottle, a battle he’s still trying to beat.

“It’s a stress-reliever for me, but I know it’s not good for me,” he said of alcohol. “I’ve got to keep my blood sugar down.”

He plans to go to the gym, which is open two hours a day, at least three times a week. One day, he expects to be fit and healthy with a job and his own home again, he said.

That’s the point of the facility, said the woman who runs Siloam’s Saul Sair Health Centre.

“If you don’t feel good about yourself, you make bad decisions,” said Vicki Olatundun. “When you start to feel good, you make better decisions and have other options.”

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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