As an overnight staff for my second year with 1JustCity and Just A Warm Sleep, I see firsthand the need for safe shelter spaces, particularly during these cold winter months when sleeping outside goes from being dangerous to downright deadly. Here at Just A Warm Sleep, we are fortunate to have the support of so many generous and loving Winnipeggers who look out for those who don’t have a safe place to stay, and who give what they can to make things like Just A Warm Sleep possible so that people do have safe, warm sleeps. Believe me, the people who use this shelter are so grateful for it, and to me it has been a profound wake up call in realizing how severe the issue of housing is and what we need to do as a society to improve the living conditions for all. No one should have to sleep on a little mat on the floor of a church with only a few possessions allowed by their side if they don’t want to. But it is way, way better than sleeping outside right now, and, I think many of our fellow people using this shelter neither have any, nor know of any other ways to get by right now. Times are tough and people are facing lots of challenges and need support. Just A Warm Sleep provides at least something in the way of addressing the need for safe shelter— something that actually means a lot right now to people struggling. A lighthouse in the storm. I know people are appreciative of what we are able to provide just by offering the communal space for them to rest their heads out of the cold elements, and other possible dangers that they may face. We that have ‘more’ ourselves, have a responsibility to share what we have in all of our abilities, whether that be knowledge of how to navigate the system or tools and resources within the system to be of use to our fellow people.
So to those that have given and supported initiatives like Just A Warm Sleep, I give my biggest heartfelt admiration for your goodwill and honesty to serve and help. In a world where it can be to easy to only think of ourselves and what we can get ourselves with what resources we have, to donate to help others is an act of true liberation and ultimately, love. It shows that you care, and I hope that you know that it is seen and valued. I also must commend Augustine United Church for letting Just A Warm Sleep use their space. I think it is so important that churches do things like this, and other organizations as well, that have the space and provide the opportunity to house people when they’re not using it, such as overnight sleeping.
Lastly, I want to compare my experience as an overnight staff this year with my experience as an overnight staff with Just A Warm Sleep last year. It is a very similar job this year as it was last: thanking donors, supervising sleepers, answering phone calls, cleaning the space, social media engagement, providing any help I can to those that ask for it, but this year it is busier I would say! It has been full every night I have worked and usually we go overcapacity! Normally when we reach capacity we try contacting all the other shelters to see if they have space and if we can get a van to shuttle our guests over there, but unfortunately due to a high demand and a shortage of spaces, the other shelters in the city have almost all been full every night too. Our capacity is maximum 30 people, but we never want anyone to have to spend the night out in the cold without anywhere to go, as that is dangerous. So it has been a busy time, but still we are working together to help everyone out and make it as comforting and respectful to all as possible. I am grateful to the people working with Just A Warm Sleep and the volunteers that play their part in this, especially the Bear Paw security who really ensure things are safe and smooth for all guests, and for us as the overnight staff! Also, the volunteers that stay at night to register people, and most definitely the volunteers who come early in the mornings to help clean up after the night and get the church looking all shiny again for the next day are hugely appreciated. What selflessness, I can’t even begin to describe!
By: Peter (Just a Warm Sleep overnight staff)