"You guys in love?"
The man's question drips good-naturedly into the warm, pre-dawn air seconds after the Main Street Project van pulls up beside him.
The van’s driver, Mike McCallum, is already reaching for a bottle of water to give to the friendly stranger, who stands in a grey T-shirt and shorts under the streetlight glow along Graham Avenue.
The question catches McCallum by surprise, and the man repeats it: "Love?" He lets the single syllable float through the open driver’s side window without aiming it at anyone in particular.
"That’s love, right there," McCallum quips, handing him the water and a plastic-wrapped sandwich. They both laugh.
It’s nearly 4 a.m., and McCallum and his van patrol co-pilot Makayla McGinnis have delivered sandwiches, water, hot coffee and harm-reduction supplies to about 60 people on Winnipeg’s streets over the last three or so hours.
“When you go home to your mom, what does she do? She feeds you, right? That's how we show love." -Mike McCallum
Their white van — with its Main Street Project logo and interior lights shining — is a beacon in the night, drawing people out of the shadows.
As it rattles over potholes, a bin of sandwiches and a coffee dispenser jiggling behind its front seats, the van is a welcome sight for many on dark and deserted routes through the city’s downtown and North End, even when it's a relatively balmy 21 C.
McCallum and McGinnis have gotten to know the regulars, and they know who not to awaken from a midsummer night’s slumber.
Most everyone is happy to see them at this hour — there’s a chorus of gratitude at almost every stop. They serve an average of 99 people a night, giving out supplies such as clean needles, disinfectant wipes and condoms.
Back on the road after the exchange on Graham, McCallum reflects on how love finds its way into the work they do, right down to the sandwiches they deliver.
"When you go home to your mom, what does she do? She feeds you, right?" he says. "That's how we show love. When we celebrate things, what do we do? We eat. But if you don't have anybody, who are you eating with? Who's helping you?
"It sounds a little bit corny, but..." he trails off, having spotted another person in need, a guy he recognizes.
"Hey, brother! How’s it going?" McCallum calls out. He stops the van once again, greeting another smiling face.
— Katie May
Photography by Mikaela MacKenzie