The builder of a tiny house along Empress Street says he hopes other homeless Winnipeggers can use the shelter when he returns home to the Philippines.
Allan Par started building the home out of pallet wood two months ago after spending the winter under a parking lot bridge metres away.
"I came here for a job. Because I’m a breadwinner of the family... (I came here) for a better life. I didn’t expect my life here," he said.
On Sunday morning, members of the Filipino community came in groups, offering money, food and water. Par was grateful — "they have a big heart," he said — but said what he really wants is a job.
"I want to help," Par said, trying to tell visitors that he wasn’t asking for money.
Par said he was sponsored to come to Canada in 2010 and held a series of part-time jobs, but said many of them were for only three hours a week. He said he doesn’t know why the jobs didn’t work out.
"Sometimes I feel hopeless, because I don’t understand why this situation has happened to me. I don’t know what’s wrong, what’s wrong with me," he said. "I’m strong. Any kind of work, I’m able."
This is the first time he’s ever built a house, he said, though he has family that are carpenters.
He said he obtained pallets from several local businesses — after asking permission, he said several times — and reused the nails, and got other supplies from Habitat for Humanity and Rona nearby.
He built himself a bed out of more pallets and layers of blankets.
The next step is putting in leftover Styrofoam pieces as insulation so it will be warm for winter.
"I always cried, every night, I was scared because of winter. Because in Philippines, there is no winter," he said.
"But now I know the winter is — not as hard, just a winter blanket, you survive."
Par said he helped train people to get jobs in the Philippines and is disappointed he couldn’t access similar supports here.
He has been on the street since 2014, he said.
Since people began to notice his tiny house, he’s received help from Main Street Project to get a passport so he can go home, he said.
Rick Lees from Main Street Project said there’s red tape that can make it difficult, especially for newcomers, to access services.
"Statistically, a large percentage of (homeless) people are facing issues of mental health and trauma which prevent them from accessing services or even holding employment in the traditional sense," Lees said.
"Many are also reluctant to access group shelter living, preferring the idea that by living outside they are someone maintaining their independence and dignity."
As more and more people came to visit Par on Sunday, he admitted he’s tired and overwhelmed by the attention.
There are letters posted on the front of the home, in English and Tagalog, offering supports, jobs, a place in someone’s home.
"Why now?" Par said. "I asked for a job before, why now?"
Another visitor, who declined to be interviewed, told Par if he worked harder he would have been able to keep his earlier jobs.
Par listened but kept working, building a door frame from scrap wood pieces.
Perla Javate, president of the Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba, said she first met Par in a Superstore parking lot months ago and offered help, but she said it was declined.
"Now it has become something that the whole community is aware of... the community is coming together trying to help him out," Javate said.
"It’s not easy to settle down in a new country," she noted. "You know how it is, even if people come here with professional backgrounds and resumés, you have to start from scratch."
Par said he no longer wants to stay in Canada; he has family in the Philippines and wants to be with them.
"There’s a lot of people that complain about here, because I make a house without permission," he said.
"If I go back to the Philippines, I’m so happy, because I have no problems; (there) I have a house."
Updated on Monday, July 22, 2019 at 4:44 PM CDT: Updated.