Welcomed and supported in their own neighbourhood

“I moved into Morberg House because I had nowhere else to go at that time. They gave me food and a roof over my head. I was able to stabilize myself mentally and see a family doctor for a psychiatric assessment and adapted assistance. Today, my situation is stable. I have an apartment and a cellphone, and I pay my own bills.”

Austin Saunders, former Morberg House resident

Welcomed and supported in their own neighbourhood

CHCM has partnered with St. Boniface Street Links (SBSL) to provide a place for people experiencing homelessness in St. Boniface in their own neighbourhood: Morberg House.

Red Road Lodge, Siloam Mission, Lighthouse Mission, Main Street Project…there are many services for the people who experience homelessness on the other side of the Red River. But in St. Boniface, where the homeless population is just as prevalent, no such services existed even three years ago.

That’s what St. Boniface resident Marion Willis was seeking to change when she founded SBSL in 2015, after working on developing an aid project with a small group of people from St. Boniface who were homeless, including Faron Hall, who gained fame after rescuing two people from drowning on separate occasions. The intention was to “draw on their experiences and address their real needs,” says the founder.

Among other things, the people experiencing homelessness needed a place where they could prepare their own meals, wash their clothes and keep their personal effects secure, as well as an address where they could get information on addictions treatment, given that “it’s hard to be reached for appointments when you don’t have an address, or any means of communication or transportation,” says Marion Willis.

The organization quickly documented more than 100 people. Then, in 2016, the purchase of a house at 311 Provencher was made possible by Gail Morberg on behalf of SBSL. Offering transitional housing for people who are homeless, Morberg House opened its doors in August 2016, with the support of the Catholic Health Corporation of Manitoba (CHCM). It has 17 beds, three bathrooms, and a full staff.

“I feel blessed to work with this great community partner with a vision,” says Marion Willis. “They understand and respect what we do.” Morberg House is a definite asset for CHCM and for some of its Communities of Service such as the St. Boniface Hospital (SBH).

“These vulnerable individuals often seek treatment at our hospital. We don’t like to let them leave if they have nowhere to go afterward,” says SBH’s Interim President and CEO Brenda Badiuk. “With Morberg House, even though there are no beds reserved specifically for our clients, we know that they can go there and be cared for in their own community. That’s a relief for us.”

A model of success, Morberg House has also created a mental health program based on a peer support system with formerly homeless support workers. “It’s a unique project that Ontario’s Justice Ministry is trying to replicate,” says Marion Willis.

What’s more, “after residents leave Morberg House and move into their own place, they are still followed by our services for two years,” she adds. “That creates a sense of family and community for them. With time and psychological support, they can overcome their addictions. They set goals and reach them. Many are anxious to be off social assistance and get a job.”

Austin Saunders, who lived at Morberg House from December 2016 to August 2017, is a perfect example: “I moved into Morberg House because I had nowhere else to go at that time. They gave me food and a roof over my head. I was able to stabilize myself mentally and see a family doctor for a psychiatric assessment and adapted assistance. Today, my situation is stable. I have an apartment and a cellphone, and I pay my own bills. Going to Morberg House is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”