July 19, 2019

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Siloam Mission offers sneak peek of new facility

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>One year after breaking ground on a 19 million dollar expansion, Siloam Mission gave donors and media a look at the progress on construction of the 54,000 square foot expansion which will create up to 50 new shelter beds, including a separate space reserved for women.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

One year after breaking ground on a 19 million dollar expansion, Siloam Mission gave donors and media a look at the progress on construction of the 54,000 square foot expansion which will create up to 50 new shelter beds, including a separate space reserved for women.

In a little more than a year, downtown Winnipeg will boast 50 new beds — including separate spaces for women — and more mental health and transition services for the homeless.

On Thursday, Siloam Mission representatives handed donors from the three levels of government and private benefactors hard hats for a tour of the two-storey, 54,000-square-foot construction site next to its centre on Princess Street.

The Make Room capital campaign has raised $17.1 million — much of that since breaking ground a year ago — and next month, the non-profit organization will roll out the final push to raise the last 10 per cent of the $19-million project.

The expansion makes room for 50 new shelter beds, on top of the 110 beds currently filled to capacity. There will also be new space dedicated to women, along with more room for health services, mental health support, transition services and volunteer resources, including a loading dock to receive donations of clothing and other items.

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In a little more than a year, downtown Winnipeg will boast 50 new beds — including separate spaces for women — and more mental health and transition services for the homeless.

On Thursday, Siloam Mission representatives handed donors from the three levels of government and private benefactors hard hats for a tour of the two-storey, 54,000-square-foot construction site next to its centre on Princess Street.

The Make Room capital campaign has raised $17.1 million — much of that since breaking ground a year ago — and next month, the non-profit organization will roll out the final push to raise the last 10 per cent of the $19-million project.

The expansion makes room for 50 new shelter beds, on top of the 110 beds currently filled to capacity. There will also be new space dedicated to women, along with more room for health services, mental health support, transition services and volunteer resources, including a loading dock to receive donations of clothing and other items.

The mission will also open a new social enterprise project in the form of a commercial laundry service, with job training to pass on the skills for the trade.

"All of you are (here) because you're playing a very significant role in the future of men and women who are experiencing homelessness in our city," Siloam Mission chief executive officer Jim Bell told the assembly Thursday.

"You're part of a group of people who dare — dare to end homelessness in our city."

Among those in attendance were philanthropists John and Bonnie Buhler. The couple kick-started the project with a $3-million donation and the new building will be named the Buhler Centre in their honour.

"It's incredible to see how far we've come in a very short time. The Make Room project will enable Siloam Mission to help more people," Manitoba deputy premier Heather Stefanson said.

The province committed $3 million to the project. "There's no doubt this project will have a large impact on community," Stefanson said.

Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) praised Siloam's capacity to generate support for the city's most vulnerable, saying said in the 30 years since it opened, the mission has made a major difference.

"It's striking, I moved away from Winnipeg and... in the decades when I moved away, Siloam started," Mayes said.

"When I moved back, Siloam was an institution; an accepted, major part of the city. That's not easy in a city like Winnipeg, where change happens slowly. It's amazing what's been accomplished here."

The City of Winnipeg contributed $1.3 million toward the expansion, which included support in the past renovations as well as current construction.

Part of the facility is already in use, with a new dining hall and kitchen at 303 Stanley St. that seats 400 daily, Bell said.

"Homelessness is the most grueling and unforgiving opponent I've ever seen... I've come to realize that," he said. "Trauma, abuse, addictions, broken families, mental illness, prejudice... But the people are some of the most courageous, resilient gifted people I've ever seen.

"They're kind, and they're worthy. They need our continued help to keep fighting."

John White, a former homeless man who credited Siloam for getting him off the streets, said he was impressed with the new facility.

At 68, the Edmonton-born Indigenous man recalled his decades of struggle: he was shunted around foster homes from birth, lived on the streets in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver before landing in Winnipeg three years ago.

"I've been on the streets and I see what's going on," White said with quiet dignity. "There is a need for expansion at Siloam and probably many other places.

"With the different drugs that are on the streets, more and more people are getting hooked and more and more people are becoming homeless."

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Alexandra Paul

Alexandra Paul
Reporter

Alexandra is a veteran news reporter who has covered stories for the Winnipeg Free Press since 1987. She held the medical beat for nearly 17 years, and today specializes in coverage of Indigenous-related issues. She is among the most versatile journalists on the paper’s staff.

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