What it means to sleepers and staff to make sure Just A Warm Sleep is available this April
By Taylor Orpin, Just A Warm Sleep Overnight Co-ordinator
These past few weeks have been difficult for a lot of us. Our children are unable to go to school, libraries and restaurants have closed their doors, a lot of us have been laid off. We're social distancing, we're self-isolating – we're using words we've learned mere weeks ago! Amidst all of the change, amidst all of the chaos, I am constantly reminded of how blessed I am to have a roof over my head and a safe, loving space to rest. As we were set to close the doors of Just A Warm Sleep, our overnight warming center, on March 31st, this wasn't going to be the case for a lot of our guests. But thanks to the generosity of the beautiful people of Winnipeg, our guests are going to have a place to come in from the rain, to practice physical distancing, to be protected, loved and held in these uncertain times.
“What are we supposed to do when you guys close?”
“I have no idea where I'm going to go.”
“I guess I'll have to start sleeping outside again.”
This is what my conversations with our guests looked like before we were able to extend our hours into the spring. The worst part about it? I never knew what to say. My heart ached, I empathized with them so deeply, but I didn't have the answers. (As more and more public spaces are closing, our guests are forced to bear the elements more than ever. Gone are the days, though temporarily, of popping into Tim Horton's to warm up, or cozying up at the library with a good book. Our guests need our space now more than ever!)
As we announced we were staying open, I witnessed our conversations change instantly. Now, I watch relief and gratitude prevail, while worry is laid to rest.
“I couldn't believe it! I was like, are you serious? This is awesome!”
“I'm just so happy. I'm so happy!”
And I'm so happy, too! Our guests have become family to me, and knowing that they have somewhere warm to sleep, somewhere they feel safe and loved, makes my heart sing!
As I made my way to my overnight shift on April 1st, icy rain filled the streets, and I found myself with a grin from ear to ear. I was and remain so unbelievably thankful that my family no longer had to spend this night, and the others to come just like it, on the streets. Cue sigh of relief... Woohoo!
We all have the right to shelter, to community, to compassion and love. We are all worthy of safety, of a listening ear, of dry socks and a good laugh. While we navigate these trying times, let us go deep within and be thankful for all that we have been given. Let us continue loving our city's most vulnerable people and continue finding ways to put that love into action.
May we continue to rise up and take care of one another, to remember how connected we all are, for that's the kind of love that's going to change this world. <3