Alan once made a six- figure income but when he lost his job his life spiraled out of control and it wasn’t long before he found himself living in the back seat of an abandoned Mercedes Benz in a junkyard lot. Ironically Alan had once driven a Mercedes himself.
We heard Alan’s story last Saturday night at an event organized to raise funds for Today House, a non- profit community program based in Steinbach that offers emergency shelter to people who find themselves homeless. We were there courtesy of Canadian Biosystems.
The nearly full house in attendance saw a film explaining the work of Today House. It featured interviews with founding board members Irene Kroeker and Simone Penner. We also listened to the story of a young woman with two children whose family was helped by Today House. Then Alan told us about his difficult journey trying to find the help he needed to slowly turn his life around after he became homeless. Alan now works as an advocate for homeless people in Winnipeg trying to help others who find themselves without a safe place to stay due to job loss, abusive family situations, illness or other circumstances.
The Today House fundraiser took place in the Neufeld Garage in Randolph which like Alan has had it’s life turned around. A family owned and operated business since the 1940s the building has been transformed into an event centre and community space that features elements chronicling the garage’s history, but also has a kitchen, dance floor, movie screen and stage.
R.B.B a local music group sponsored and planned the Saturday night event called Rockin for a Reason. One of the band members told us the story of why they had decided to host the fundraiser for Today House. R.B.B was practicing one night when a young man wandered into their rehearsal space and asked if he could listen to them play. Later some of the band members chatted with him and found out he was homeless. They took him out for a meal, heard his story, and then contacted Irene Kroeker to see if Today House could be of service to the young man. Irene was able to arrange for assistance. The experience gave the group the idea of connecting their next local performance with Today House and raising funds to help other people like the young man they had encountered.
An experience with a homeless man had also left a lasting impression on radio personality Karen Black of Country 107 who hosted the Rockin for a Reason event. She began the evening by telling us the story of her encounter with a homeless man at Siloam Mission in Winnipeg.
Today House board member Irene Kroeker is a high school teacher. She said she had first been made aware of the problem of homelessness in Steinbach when a student walked into her classroom and told her he had not eaten for days and had no where to go for the night.
Simone Penner who has volunteered at Today House, talked about some of the things she learned as she listened to the stories of the guests. It was clear her volunteer experience had left a lasting impression on her own life.
A theme throughout the Rockin for A Reason event was that while you may have preconceived ideas about homeless people, when you meet them personally and listen to them talk about their experiences stereotypes disappear. You begin to understand their unique situations, realize that homelessness can happen to all kinds of people, and become inspired to do something positive to help those who find themselves in that difficult situation.