Get to know the people that Main Street Project supports. They have some great stories.
Meet Phil Goss – a former client and now employee of Main Street Project. Phil ended up on the street at the age of 10. And by the time he was 12, he was an alcoholic and addicted to drugs. Phil spent over half his life in jail for dealing drugs and stealing but thanks Main Street Project for turning his life around. Now Phil strives to help the people at Main Street Project overcome their addictions and build a future for themselves.
Meet John Rowe from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. He went through the detox program at Main Street Project and is now living in the McLaren Hotel while he saves up for an apartment. In his spare time John enjoys walking outside and reading.
Brian Kelley Monkman
Brian is from Sandy Bay First Nations, but was born here in Winnipeg. “I’ve always been employed even since I was younger,” he says. “I was 8 years old and I delivered the paper. I was always in school and I was always working.”
His grandmother adopted him when he was just a child, and it was her financial struggles that forced him to drop out of school and into the labour force when he was 17 years old.
He worked hard for more than ten years. “She ended up passing away before I left employment to go back to school,” he says, ”So then that’s when I finished my grade 12 and went to college.” Brian got his diploma in business administration, got married, built a family, and worked at CanWest Global for 14 years. The business went under, and things with he and his wife took a turn for the worst. That’s when Monkman turned to the bottle.
He and his wife divorced, and since he had been adopted he didn’t have a relationship with anyone else in his family. All he had were his two children. “They’re older now, they’re okay,” he said, “I thank the lord for that.” He said, “ [Drinking] was the only way I knew how to kill the pain and to feel, I guess, a little more alive.”
He had nowhere to go after the divorce, so he ended up at Mainstay Traditional Housing Service (Mainstay), the shelter at Main Street Project. He tried to get through the detoxification program at Main Street Project, but always fell back into his old habits.
“I wasn’t in close contact with my sponsor and I didn’t let anybody know how I was feeling,” he said, “I figured I could handle it on my own, but I didn’t”. Brian walked down Main Street to a bar and started his three-day bender.
“That gentleman who used to work at Mainstay, Amhad, he was actually looking for me there when I was on my little binge there downtown,” Brian said, “but he couldn’t find me”. His eyes welled, and he took a deep breath. “And I basically realized that somebody cared.” Amhad was part of Project Breakaway, a team of transition workers that support a collection of clients who are really struggling and have some high assistance needs. Amhad was Brian’s personal worker.
“So that’s when I put my foot down and said this is enough. I went back to complete the program and told myself that was nothing was going to stop me."
Brian once again started the detox program at Main Street Project. “I didn’t realize I needed the help until I got to understand more about the disease of alcoholism,” he said, “I didn’t realize I had it until I found out all the symptoms of it and that was me.”
Two days before finishing the detoxification program through Main Street Project he contacted The Salvation Army to enter their Anchorage Program, but there was a two-week waiting period to get. “I knew once I got out of detox I wouldn’t make it two weeks, I knew I was gonna hit the bottle right away” he said. He phoned The Salvation Army and spoke to a woman named Brittany. “I’ll never forget her,” he said, “ She called me back 15 minutes later she said, “O.k. Brian, you can come in when you’re done your detox. “ Brian says it lifted a big weight off of his shoulders. “I went right from detox, BOOM, right into the program,” he says, “I basically have been there since then.”
Brian smiled as he dug into his bag and pulled out a picture frame. “I actually just graduated about 3 weeks ago now, so I actually brought this here just to give you a little bit of an insight on it,” he says, “That’s for 90 days, it is a start and it gives you a little more motivation to stay on the right track which is what we’re all after. Sobriety.”
Although he appreciates the help the employees gave him, Brian doesn’t often visit Main Street Project because he tries to stay away from people drinking. “I don’t think I’m better than anybody else, I just want to better myself,” he says. He does the best he can to surround himself with positive, healthy people. “I walk down the street I see somebody drinking they call me “Hey come on over, you wanna have a drink?” But I just keep walking.”
He has many hobbies and interests that keep him busy, and away from relapse. “I do a lot of reading, you know, I read the big book,” he said. He took a week-long introduction to computers course at the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development Inc. to keep busy for a week. “When I finished they gave me a certificate that I completed the course and they gave me a free computer,” he said with an excited voice. “There were a couple students in there on the Monday but he and I were the only ones to finish by the end of the week,” he said, chuckling.
Brian is signing up to take more computer classes at Opportunity for Employment. “If I get into that then I can get my own place, which is hopefully close to downtown so I don’t have to take a bus, I can just walk and go from there,” he says, “Finish the courses, find employment and go my way.”
“I don’t mean to sound selfish but I gotta watch out for myself first or I can’t help anybody,” he said, “I’m just trying to do my thing and stay on the right path.”
Meet Nelson. He lives at the Bell Hotel run by Main Street Project, a 24-hour drop-in centre that works with individuals who are experiencing homelessness and substance abuse. They rely on donations to continue helping Winnipeg's homeless population. There's a large stigma around homelessness in Winnipeg and we want to break that stigma by sharing stories like Nelson's with you.
A tough relationship with her step-father led Florence Mclean, now 51, to become homeless at a young age. After years of doing drugs and living on the street, Florence has found her home at The Bell Hotel and has become “Momma Flo” to many.
Florence was a young girl when the conflict between her and her step-father made her want to leave home. “He did something bad to me and my sister so I started running away, and I don’t want to talk about it,” said Florence.
She has stayed at multiple homeless shelters in the city, and had been living at The Salvation Army for five years when she got the news that she was leaving. “One day they told me to pack up. I thought I did something bad but I didn’t,” Florence said. “They said, “You’re moving to The Bell.” I packed up fast and I came here. I was happy to come here,” she said.
The Bell Hotel is run by Main Street Project. Main Street Project has a shelter, and offers food and clothes to people in need. The Bell Hotel is a place where clients can have their own apartment suite in a safe place downtown. There are common areas for clients to watch television or just hang out in, as well as a smudging room. What makes Main Street Project and The Bell Hotel different from other shelters in the city is that they will not turn away a person who is intoxicated or using.
Florence has lived at The Bell Hotel for five years now, and her life has changed drastically in that time. Things that many people consider normal have been victories for Florence to achieve. “I never had a bank account, now I have one,” she said. “ I never had a picture ID. I got one of those”. She participates in groups at The Bell Hotel and also volunteers.
She likes to keep herself busy. “I’m putting my name in for Nine Circles, I’m gonna start classes there too,” she said. Some of the classes include drumming, the seven teachings, making dream catchers. She also is a generous woman. She shares food and clothes with other clients of The Bell Hotel and people living on the street. “They call me Momma Flo, some of them call me aunty,” she said with a smile, “It feels like home because everybody trusts me here.”
Having a place to call her own and having no one to answer to is her favourite part of living at The Bell Hotel. She also appreciates the security of The Bell Hotel, as staff members are always there and around to help with any problems.
Florence says she would like to thank everyone who donates to Main Street Project and The Bell Hotel. “I appreciate what they’re doing for us,” she said, “I wish more people would come here and donate more stuff.”
Her vision for Main Street Project is that they should open another shelter with some of their donation money, because people are often turned away because the shelter is full. This is especially an issue in the winter when people are freezing cold and sleeping outside is unbearable.
Florence will be walking the catwalk at The Runway to Change fashion show in February, and we couldn’t be more excited to have her.