Inside Main Street Project (MSP) on Oct. 28, the room was divided by a set of washrooms and showers with bright yellow doors. On the right side of the space, the lights dimmed around 1 p.m. to give 120 adults, sleeping on cots, a safe space to rest.
MSP is a community health centre devoted to helping marginalized people in Winnipeg. The shelter provides a safe place for people to rest and access food, beverages, resources and harm-reduction supplies. MSP especially seeks to help people living with addictions, mental illness and those who need transitional housing support.
MSP offers low-barrier assistance, meaning most people should be able to access their services without facing additional barriers or restrictions.
Sydney Huntinghawk, 40, sat at one of the five round tables located on the left side of the room. As he ate his hot chicken noodle soup and bun, he talked about his experiences staying at MSP.
“This woman I was working with this morning, she asked me what I needed, and I said ‘I would like some help to try to find a place, because I want to get out of here,’” they say.
“This place is kind of weird, but you live with it. You have to live with it, because it’s the only place that’s available to you right now. My wife doesn’t like it, either, but lately we just take each day as it comes.”
In October, staff at MSP run a sock drive. “Socktober” encourages individuals and businesses to donate socks, which MSP can then distribute throughout the year.
“Socks keep your feet warm and dry, because being homeless means you’re always on your feet,” Huntinghawk says. “Really, you don’t have time to actually take them off and let your feet air out. You (need) to keep your shoes on all the time, and I just get tired of wearing the same socks over and over.”
Anatasia Ziprick, director of development for MSP, says the organization distributes seasonally appropriate socks to about 200 or 300 people every day. She believes these socks help provide primary healthcare, as people who wear wet shoes and socks all day can develop sores, which could cause septic shock or other medical problems.
“People experiencing homelessness are at risk of developing serious feet health issues including infections, ulcers, ingrown toenails and nerve damage due to diabetes. Being exposed to the elements can cause frostbite. In severe cases, foot health issues can lead to serious illness and amputation,” according to a media release posted on the MSP website.
Last year, MSP collected 29,000 pairs of socks. The organization hoped to receive 30,000 pairs this year. The University of Winnipeg specifically donated more than 100 pairs of socks in 2022.
Anyone who missed the Socktober deadline can still drop off socks at the MSP donations centre on Mondays from noon to 3 p.m. and Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“It’s good to know that somebody cares, because that would go a long way if I had a bunch of socks,” Huntinghawk says.
Published in Volume 77, Number 08 of The Uniter (November 3, 2022)