Warmer hearts beat in Winnipeg


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One heart beating. Then two. And now there are many sounds of love emanating from the heart of the city. Take one Crescentwood resident, Keila Anobis, and one west Winnipegger, Marc Sweet, and you have the origins of Warmer Hearts Winnipeg, a non-profit group of volunteers who share food and clothing with the homeless trying to stay warm at Portage Place and those living in bus shelters along Portage Avenue.

It started with Marc cleaning out his closet and taking his clothes to give to homeless people he encountered downtown. The death of a woman in a bus shelter this winter propelled him into action and activism.

It started with Keila and her young daughter making crepes and waffles with jam for homeless people in Osborne Village. Now dozens of people walk with them every Sunday morning or gather survival items and food to be given freely to vulnerable street people.

<p>Supplied photo</p>
                                <p>Members of the Warmer Hearts Winnipeg group pictured on recent Sunday morning.</p>

Supplied photo

Members of the Warmer Hearts Winnipeg group pictured on recent Sunday morning.

“It’s so nice to be part of a group all wanting to help the homeless,” Keila says.

Hot soup and granola bars have been added to the menu and clothing donations have necessitated acquiring wagons and storage space.

“Bag lunches and a smile may seem like small acts but it is having tremendous ripple effect,” Marc says.

Marc and Keila appreciate their growing numbers of volunteers and are working toward incorporation as a non-profit organization. Their mission statement: “An act of kindness can make the world of difference.”

Those acts of kindness are helping the people behind the statistics.

“We appreciate that Warmer Hearts Winnipeg is out there Sunday mornings because we’re all doing heart work,” says Angela Klassen, co-ordinator of the West Broadway Bear Clan patrol.

Beginning at 11 a.m., Marc and Keila find that they hand out “every single donated item every week, the need is that great.”

One of the most poignant moments for Keila was when she asked a young woman at Portage Place if she needed anything and her reply was, “I need a home.”

Just 23years of age, she explained to Keila that, after her dad died, she is now alone with no other relatives. Not having family support is but one of the reasons people become homeless.

Each week Warmer Hearts Winnipeg volunteers see a disproportionate number of women and Indigenous people with no shelter and the unhoused are shadowed by ever-present poverty.

“The people you meet,” are those with disabilities, intergenerational victims of residential school abuse, seniors with no pensions, youth who have aged out of CFS, students, LGBTQ+, recent immigrants and refugees experiencing trauma from wars, addictions, and untreated mental illness.

A recent census reports there are approximately 1,250 people in Winnipeg without housing. As someone who exemplifies the difference between wanting to help the needy and helping to dismantle the systems that create their need, Marc advocates “for safe houses away from hot spots of trouble.”

He sees that many fear for their safety in shelters.

Living in a constant state of crisis produces the need to access food banks and to accept basic life necessities from the kindness of strangers but as Marc says, “we are about giving a hand up not a handout.”

To walk with Warmer Hearts Winnipeg or to donate items write them at warmerheartswinnipeg@gmail.com or call 204-558-9727 or 431-294-1231.

Heather Emberley

Heather Emberley
Crescentwood community correspondent

Heather Emberley is a community correspondent for Crescentwood. Email her at heather.emberley@gmail.com if you have a story suggestion.

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