Homelessness symposium in Winnipeg hears from those once living on the streets

Over 100 people from government to community organizations gathered at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to discuss ways to tackle homelessness in Winnipeg. Edward Djan has more.

A symposium at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg Monday heard from individuals who have previously been homeless, with the hope the firsthand experience can lead to solutions.

Organizer Al Wiebe spent 28 months without a home after losing the job he worked at for seven years.

During that time Wiebe suffered from depression. The pain was so much for him that at one point he attempted suicide.

“I jumped off a bridge to take my life because I couldn’t handle everything,” he said. “And I was lucky to survive it.”

Wiebe was eventually able to get help, receiving both medical care and educational resources to turn his life around.

Now he is a full-time advocate for those who experience homelessness.

“Human rights matter to everyone, especially those who are vulnerable in our population,” he said. “But if they don’t matter to the homeless and the vulnerable, our rights don’t matter either.”

FILE – Winnipeg homeless encampment. (CityNews)

More than 100 officials from government to charitable organizations who work with those experiencing homelessness were present at the event.

Some of the topics discussed included the lack of low-income housing available in Winnipeg and the challenges those experiencing homelessness face, like mental illness.


“Mental health was a big discussion today,” said Jarred Baker, the newly appointed senior advisor on homelessness with the City of Winnipeg. “And just from working on the front line, I know that’s a challenge that some of the workers with the wages that they offer, that it’s a challenge to support, with the education that they’ve got.

“There’s youth aging out of care, there’s medical systems, there’s a lot of different systems contributing to homelessness.”

FILE – Winnipeg homeless encampment. (CityNews)

Jacob Kaufman used to live on the streets of Vancouver. He was homeless from the ages of 15 to 21 before moving to Winnipeg to enroll in a detox program and turn his life around.

He says at the end of the day those experiencing homelessness first need people’s compassion.

“Treat people like people,” said Kaufman.

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