Sunday October 21, I hosted a Sharing Circle Forum in River Heights to look at how we can keep people healthy, safe and warm this winter and in the future. Presenters included Michael Redhead Champagne, Marion Willis, James Favel, Evelyn Forget and Rick Lees. I spoke on October 29th in the Manitoba Legislature on a Member's Statement about the Forum. My comments, from Hansard, are below:
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, nine days ago, at a River Heights sharing circle forum we focused on keeping people healthy, warm and safe this winter and in the future–in essence, what's needed for Manitoba's preventive health plan.
Michael Champagne led. He said, stop calling people homeless; instead talk of our friends and relatives on the street. If not for chance, it could be us. Help starts with understanding, dignity and respect.
Marion Willis drilled down into the practical realities of helping people leave the street. Her efforts with St. Boniface Street Links and at Morberg House address meth addiction, mental health and previously being in CFS care. She delivers continuous and seamless support in Morberg House, followed by up to a year or two transitional housing with supports, and it works.
James Favel, of the Bear Clan, whose patrols have done so much to improve safety in the North End, described the immediate needs of our friends and relatives on the street for warming shelters, for food and for enough money to have some stability.
Evelyn Forget took us to the world with a minimum basic income, based in the Dauphin experience in the 1970s. Such a program can help many individuals' ability to live, complete their education and find employment.
Rick Lees of the Main Street Project affirmed: No one needs to be homeless. It can be fixed tomorrow. We can have a healthier, warmer and safer city and province. We just need the political will to help our friends and relatives on the street.
I thank Michael Champagne, Marion Willis, James Favel, Evelyn Forget and Rick Lees for their contributions, and thank you to all who brought donations of socks, mitts, toques and other warm clothes.