March 1, 2019 9:00 am

Siloam Mission raising funds to expand shelter and services

WATCH: Part of the latest effort by Winnipeg shelter Siloam Mission, to create more space for those experiencing homelessness, is a specific focus on the needs of women.

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Siloam Mission is expanding — and the organization is creating a women-only space in its new building that’s currently under construction.

The shelter has 110 beds in the existing facility, but more are coming to the new centre, which will also feature a separate entrance solely for women.

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“With the expansion, what we found is that we need more space for women, and dedicated space. So there will be a completely separate area for women,” Siloam’s Julianne Aitken said.

“There are shelters specific for women in this city who are experiencing domestic violence and that’s not what we are doing, but we do recognize that women — from the feedback that we get — sometimes don’t feel safe.”

READ MORE: Siloam Mission expansion on track one year after breaking ground

Aitken said the organization also used the expansion as a chance to give more privacy to everyone, noting many other shelters are moving away from a dorm-style design.

As part of the planning process, Siloam conducted surveys with people who use the shelter’s services, finding out what people liked, what they didn’t like and what they wished the facility had.

But ultimately, Siloam is using the new facility as a means of continuing to build and develop relationships with its patrons.

“There’s criteria where you go, all over the place, throughout the city,” Vanessa Gamblin, manager of the drop in shelter, said.

“At Siloam, there’s no criteria — you don’t need anything. If you don’t have ID, we’ll figure it out. We’re going to meet you where you’re at.”

That mantra applies to anyone who passes through the organization’s doors.

Often, Siloam guests are seeking a single overnight stay, but at least once, they encountered a couple who decided to have a wedding while using the shelter’s services.

READ MORE: Winnipeg shelters band together to help those hardest hit by extreme cold

A few years ago, Gamblin said, an older couple on a coast-to-coast road trip had their car break down in Winnipeg.

The man had found out he had terminal cancer and wanted to go back to his birthplace, and his wife agreed. The pair left their children and grandchildren behind and set off on the cross-country adventure.

“They stopped in — they had absolutely nowhere to go,” Gamblin said. “We had no criteria, no nothing, we met them where they were at.”

“We kind of broke the rules of our family room and we made sure that they stayed together in the room to make sure we could support them.”

The elderly couple stayed at the shelter for about three weeks — and during that time, they got to know everyone in the drop-in, says Gamblin.

One day, the man came up to her and said he was ready to marry his longtime partner — who Gamblin said had long complained that despite the man’s impending death, he would never get around to marrying her.

“We did everything. Siloam, through all those beautiful donations that people share, through all the financial donations, we were able to work together as a team,” Gamblin said.

READ MORE: Siloam Mission helps those who can’t afford a family photo get one for the holidays

The team at the shelter helped the couple pick out clothing for the ceremony, gathered friends from the community the couple had made their own and organized for a church on Grant Avenue to host the wedding.

“The man asked us to all stand in circle around him to pray with him and to share his vows — he didn’t want his back turned to anybody so we were all in circle with him,” Gamblin said.

“He eventually left. They traveled off together and unfortunately of course he died, but a beautiful story that was an opportunity for us to work and meet people where they’re at.”

Tune into 680 CJOB for the Siloam Mission Radiothon presented by Pristine Roofing & Siding Friday, March 1 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to hear more stories about Siloam Mission and find out how your support can change lives.

680 CJOB will be broadcasting live throughout the day from Centre Court at Kildonan Place Shopping Centre.

Kildonan Place will also be donating $1 from every Stuffy Riders rental during the radiothon, to Siloam.

During the Radiothon you can donate by calling 1-844-9-SILOAM (1-844-974-5626) or contribute anytime online on Siloam Mission’s website.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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