Life on the Strip - A year-long examination of Main Street homelessness

As homelessness continues to grow, political promises offer little comfort to the frozen souls on the street

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 8 minute read Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020

The only hint of yuletide colours is the red-and-white Canadian flag fluttering atop the old firefighter museum just off the Main Street strip. Otherwise, this morning — Christmas morning — is quiet, indistinguishable from the previous day and the one that follows.

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Once-derelict Main Street flophouse's transition to stable, supportive housing facility proving successful in helping homeless people turn their lives around

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 11 minute read Preview

Once-derelict Main Street flophouse's transition to stable, supportive housing facility proving successful in helping homeless people turn their lives around

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 11 minute read Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020

The days seep and ooze into one another. As the seasons change, the weather changes too: bitterly cold in winter, sticky hot in summer, pleasantly mild come fall. But otherwise, much about life on the Main Street strip remains the same, as it has for a very long time.

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Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020

Ramona walks to her room at the Bell Hotel. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Spectre of losing common bond inside encampment adds to despair

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 8 minute read Preview

Spectre of losing common bond inside encampment adds to despair

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 8 minute read Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020

The crowd is angry. You can hear it in the chants erupting from the protesters, in the drum beat rippling through the tangle of bodies, in the tremble of the speaker’s voice in the bullhorn.

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Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Desirae, right, and another resident look through carts of clothing as city crews dismantle camps on Austin Street and Henry Avenue in downtown Winnipeg in June.

Devoted couple offers warm-hearted welcome, generous spirit twice a week

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 14 minute read Preview

Devoted couple offers warm-hearted welcome, generous spirit twice a week

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 14 minute read Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020

 

The car pulls to a stop at 8:26 a.m.

Ted Martens swings open the door and steps into a windswept winter morning. His balance isn’t what it used to be, so he walks gingerly across the icy parking lot, doing his best to stay upright as he heads for the front doors of the grocery store.

Despite the cold, Martens, 69, is in good spirits — as he seemingly always is. He’s had some health troubles of late, and his hearing isn’t so good anymore, but he’s still got his driver’s licence, so he reminds himself to count his blessings.

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Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Volunteers make sandwiches at the Love Lives Here drop-in at Austin Street and Henry Avenue in downtown Winnipeg. The Christian mission supports about 100 people several times a week.

Tent settlement remains a home for street family

Ryan Thorpe, Photography by John Woods 10 minute read Preview

Tent settlement remains a home for street family

Ryan Thorpe, Photography by John Woods 10 minute read Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020

Desirae has a pair of lungs on her. “Don’t stare at the zoo animals!” she screams, as people walk down Henry Avenue, past the encampment, just off the Main Street strip, where she lives. The world around her is chaos.

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Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
People walk down Henry Avenue in downtown Winnipeg.

Salvation Army trio focuses on others' well-being during frigid overnight shift in pandemic

Ryan Thorpe, Photography by John Woods 12 minute read Preview

Salvation Army trio focuses on others' well-being during frigid overnight shift in pandemic

Ryan Thorpe, Photography by John Woods 12 minute read Monday, Dec. 28, 2020

The night begins with a prayer, an incantation from the lips of three faithful members of the flock, standing in dim light with clasped hands as they implore God to direct them where help is needed most.

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Monday, Dec. 28, 2020

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Salvation Army (SA) cadet John Burton, reflected in a vehicle window as people enter the shelter, feeds and supports people as they drive around in their Extreme Environment Response Vehicle in downtown Winnipeg Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Reporter: Thorpe

Decision to raze tent city a blow to community who called it home

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 9 minute read Preview

Decision to raze tent city a blow to community who called it home

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 9 minute read Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020

The cold is cruel and unrelenting. An extreme weather warning has been declared in Western Canada, and in Winnipeg, the temperature is projected to hit -40 C with the windchill. It is Jan. 15, 2020, and tonight, people sleep outside in tents.

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Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020

Word spread through the camp on Austin Street that the city was going to get rid of it the next day.

Main Street strip somewhere to drive through, avoiding contact with 'them' 

Ryan Thorpe, Photography by John Woods 16 minute read Preview

Main Street strip somewhere to drive through, avoiding contact with 'them' 

Ryan Thorpe, Photography by John Woods 16 minute read Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020

On many nights, Chris Hauch left the peace and quiet of his suburban apartment, boarded a city bus making its way downtown in fits and starts as exhaust burst from the tailpipe, and stepped into the chaos and clutter of the Main Street strip.

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Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020

Winnipeg Free Press files

Finding a way to live and someone to love on Winnipeg's bitterly cold, perilous streets

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 11 minute read Preview

Finding a way to live and someone to love on Winnipeg's bitterly cold, perilous streets

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 11 minute read Friday, Dec. 25, 2020

In order to better understand homelessness, the Free Press spent the past year documenting life on the streets and in the shelters, interviewing advocates, community activists and academics, reviewing research papers, shadowing social-service workers and consulting people with expertise gained through lived experience.

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Friday, Dec. 25, 2020

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Desirae and Kyle, who live in the Austin Street camp off Higgins Avenue, head off to Portage and Main to see if they can find some New Years Eve celebrating in downtown Winnipeg Tuesday, December 31, 2019.