August 23, 2019

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Opinion

Year of giving, getting for 'homeless hero'

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/12/2009 (3538 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

"No one thinks of the homeless, who don't have no one except each other" -- Faron Hall

Faron Hall -- the man whose heroic and humble ways have done much to change our attitude toward the homeless -- did nothing special and got nothing special last Christmas.

"It was just a regular day," he was telling me last week from the addictions treatment centre where he's spent the last few months. "I just did my own thing down by the bridge."

He slept outside on a concrete stage in Coronation Park in St. Boniface.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/12/2009 (3538 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

"No one thinks of the homeless, who don't have no one except each other" — Faron Hall

Faron Hall — the man whose heroic and humble ways have done much to change our attitude toward the homeless — did nothing special and got nothing special last Christmas.

"It was just a regular day," he was telling me last week from the addictions treatment centre where he's spent the last few months. "I just did my own thing down by the bridge."

He slept outside on a concrete stage in Coronation Park in St. Boniface.

This Christmas, though, Faron Hall is giving and receiving in ways the "fog" — as he called the alcoholic haze that shrouded his being — would never have allowed him to imagine.

This year, he's giving a Christmas present to the people of the street and the riverbank he calls his "family."

On Wednesday at 9:45 a.m., Faron is presenting the Main Street Project with a $1,000 cheque.

The money is interest derived from the $20,000 that's been collected in the Faron Hall National Fund for the Homeless.

It was started with the administrative assistance of The Winnipeg Foundation and a $400 donation from a St. Boniface woman named Marion Willis, who has been helping Faron ever since he pulled a young man from the fast-flowing Red River last spring. The fund was still growing and the river was still flowing a few months later when Faron rescued a young female friend from drowning.

He was drunk both times.

The second time, police dropped him off at the drunk tank at the Main Street Project. Now, as I was saying, it's his turn to drop something off there.

"It's just something to help them ease the burden," Faron said of the money he's chosen to present to a place that deals with the most difficult drunks at the most difficult of times.

Faron wants the Main Street Project to have the money because of the way the people who work at the Main Street Project have treated him and other people like him.

But, in the spirit of the season and Faron's past heroics, he'll also be receiving something Wednesday morning.

Two awards for his river rescues.

One award from the Manitoba Lifesaving Association and a Hero Award from a spiritually based international television network that donated $2,500 to the Faron Hall fund.

Last week, I delivered a present of my own to Faron. It was a copy of online reader comments he had asked to see that appeared under a Nov. 19 column headlined: 'Homeless Hero' making strides in alcohol rehab.

The comments were unanimously supportive and caring. "It's pretty overwhelming," Faron said. "It just means a lot to me. It gives me a lot of incentive."

I asked which comment was his favourite. Faron laughed. "It wasn't the one about me running for mayor in 10 years."

Then he answered seriously. "It's the one to keep focused here, all of Winnipeg is behind you. Have a nice Christmas. Don't give up on yourself."

Lots has changed in a year — including where and how Faron will spend Christmas.

This year, he got to decorate a tree for the first time since he was a teenager. He wants to volunteer for the Christmas Cheer Board. And he's accepted an invitation to spend Christmas with Marion Willis and her family.

And next year? What does he see for himself?

"I want to start the year off right," he said. "I'm not going to be hanging around the river. I'm not going to be looking at the inside of an empty bottle when I pull it away from my lips. The desire isn't there."

His hostess for Christmas has seen it all this year. Marion Willis was crossing Provencher Bridge last spring as Faron emerged, dripping water as the homeless hero. And she's visited him at the treatment centre where he's finally dried out.

"He feels valued and he feels supported... and he's feeling loved," Marion said. "The fog has lifted. The real Faron Hall is starting to emerge. And he's so good."

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 
Faron Hall will spend his Christmas with Marion Willis and her husband, Robert.

PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Faron Hall will spend his Christmas with Marion Willis and her husband, Robert.

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