• 1JustCity

Stories from Just a Warm Sleep 2019

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

At the beginning of the Just a Warm Sleep season last year we found out we were required to have overnight staff. As the first pop-up style emergency shelter, the rules aren't always clear so we weren't expecting this mandated change. Suddenly Just a Warm Sleep was going to almost double in cost.

However, the positive impact of an awake overnight staff person was clear, more triage and support for the guests, more ability to help people find other places to stay, and more support to improve access for guests with disabilities.

Without Beat the Cold we never would have been able to afford to keep Just a Warm Sleep going last year but the strong support and early sign ups for the race meant that when faced with the double staff mandate we could meet the need and still offer Just a Warm Sleep. Our overnight staff could help people all hours of the night while security made sure everyone and their belongings were safe.

The winter of 2019 had many stories – here are a few where the support offered by Beat the Cold to Just a Warm Sleep made possible some significant supports for people in an extreme time of need.

On the run

When you're fleeing a violent attack on foot in the middle of a Winnipeg winter night, it's best to be wearing shoes. This wasn’t the case for a young woman that our overnight staff supported this winter.

She had been sleeping, she thought safely, at an acquaintance’s house who’d offered for her to crash on the couch. The acquaintance had gone out drinking and when they got home, they decided she was their punching bag. She woke up to fists and fury – you can only imagine the terror.

She managed to slip under the attacker and ran straight for the door out, grabbing mittens on the way. Wearing only her pyjamas and mittens on her feet, she ran all the way from the Grant Park area to safety at Just a Warm Sleep in Osborne Village.

This was already a far run, but we’re glad to be a resource in this neighbourhood which has little else open all night. Our overnight staff and security guard welcomed her in around 3 a.m. and by 4 a.m. she was clothed, bandaged and we’d called another overnight space who had helped us find the right size boots and driven them over. In the morning she was welcomed to the daytime meal program and given a space she could talk about her trauma. We were able to provide connections to victim services and a bus ticket which brought her to the safety of her grandma's house for the time being.

A resident grandma

Think of a little old lady in your life – a grandma, a smiling senior and an unsolicited advice giver. She calls the West Broadway area home even though she hasn’t had one for close to a decade. Using her walker to get around the shelters located on Main Street are simply too far for her to make the trek on foot. She eats lunch everyday at West Broadway Community Services (one of 1JustCity’s three daytime outreach sites) and most nights she sleeps sitting up somewhere with her walker as her bed.

Let’s call her Thelma - Thelma was a regular at Just a Warm Sleep last winter thanks to you. Overnight staff have even called her our resident grandma for the kindness and caring she offers the other guests. She could trust that Just a Warm Sleep would be a place for her to rest all winter thanks to your support. You helped Thelma Beat the Cold. She took the ramp up to the accessible doors and took "her spot.” In the morning other guests helped her gather her things and get ready for the day ahead. As she left she knew she could come back once more for a safe place to sleep.

Late-life changes

Let’s call this next gentleman Fred. Fred has never been homeless and at 72, he didn’t think it was something he’d experience in his lifetime.

However, Fred’s landlord was also an older gentleman and when he passed away his children sold the beautiful downtown seven-plex to someone who was interested in renovating the house and not keeping the tenants. Fred had lived there 35 years and now his lease was over and his only rental reference had passed away. He was a single guy on a small pension and he could not afford rental rates in any of the newer buildings. For over a month he stayed with us at Just a Warm Sleep. In the daytime he was supported by our housing coordinator and our overnight staff were his next rental references.

We still see him pretty regularly for meals at Oak Table, as now that he has a more expensive place he can’t afford to eat and pay rent. Your support means he’s housed and not going hungry.