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St. Vital woman overcomes homelessness, gives back to community

Kateishia Fontaine shows off a backpack that will be filled with donations.
Kateishia Fontaine shows off a backpack that will be filled with donations. Global News

Living in Winnipeg’s suburbs means many feel removed from from the majority of the city’s homelessness population.

But a single mother in St. Vital isn’t letting her address determine how she gives back to Winnipeggers sleeping on the streets.

Katieshia Fontaine decided to give back to her community after she found herself homeless in Winnipeg years ago.

READ MORE: Winnipeg homelessness strategy aims to speak out against stigma

From showering to feminine hygiene products, she said most people don’t truly understand the harrowing experience.

“They’re humans and they’re hurting souls and they need help more than anything and people don’t understand that,” Fontaine said.

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She called her experience frightening and painful while she slept on the city streets.

“When it’s really cold outside, and you’re shivering, and it’s been hours of shivering, it’s painful, and you can’t sleep when you’re shivering,” she said.

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After several months on the streets, Fontaine made connections with housing resources, later giving birth to her son and finding a rental suite in the city’s south end.

After taking time to get back on her feet, she decided to use her experience to help others in similar situations.

READ MORE: Donated warming huts for Winnipeg homeless torn down for violating by-laws

Experts say that people who’ve experienced homelessness and decide to reach out to others is extremely beneficial.

“Everyone working together, with people from the community and most importantly those who have lived and experienced homelessness and really know what the key issues and solutions are and coming together to help end homelessness in our city,” said Kris Clemens of End Homelessness Winnipeg.

A simple Facebook post by Fontaine, calling for donations of mittens, deodorant and toothbrushes quickly gained traction on social media.

Fontaine fills backpacks that will later be distributed to people living on the streets.
Fontaine fills backpacks that will later be distributed to people living on the streets. Global News

She said neighbours, friends and business owners have reached out to help her with her project and collect items.

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READ MORE: As Winnipeg homeless camps spread, Main Street Project provides outreach

The items she collects she sorts into backpacks and purses, later delivering them to people in need in the city’s core.

Delivering the items are her favorite part, she said.

“There was a man who had blackened hands from frostbite, and we gave him a pair of mittens and you should have seen his face light up.”

Her group of volunteers plans to end out the next round of donations in January.

DROP OFF LOCATIONS

St. Vital

– Hoffman’s Fine Foods

– Bold Hair Boutique

St. Boniface

– Mobile Fix Winnipeg

Downtown

– Prairie Drives Canada

North end

– Industry Audio Productions