A Spiritual Awakening – Norman

Norman was born and raised in Winnipeg and is a member of the Brokenhead Ojibwe Nation. His childhood home was chaotic, marred by family violence and excessive alcohol use.  After many beatings, his mom moved out taking Norman and his brother with her. These childhood experiences traumatized him, feeling like the only way he could gain approval from his father was to display aggression, intimidation, and anger. These behaviours negatively impacted his relationships with other children, youth, and adults.  His behaviours contributed to negative school experiences and eventually he left school at grade 8. His behaviours also lead to encounters with the law. Throughout his childhood and teenage years, he used drugs beginning with alcohol that led him to becoming an addict.

He lived on the periphery of gang life and became a drug dealer to support his addictions. Although he used different street drugs, he primarily turned to alcohol to cover the guilt and shame of not having protected his mother from the beatings. 

Life for Norman continued to be unsettled with homelessness and ongoing addictions during his 20’s. Family was not a support option as many of them were living a life of violence, suffering from addictions or in jail. Norman decided to deal with his past and present situation and enrolled in some treatment programs.  In 2017 he experienced a spiritual awakening. This awakening was the beginning of a journey to find himself, to discover his aboriginal roots and to develop a connection to the Creator through birds such as eagles and pelicans. During this time, he became sober.

Norman lived at Morberg House, a transitional residence for men overcoming homelessness, addictions, and mental health challenges. While there, he pursued his high school education.

In late February 2020, Norman discovered Winnipeg Inner City Missions and moved into Place of Hope to become a participant in the 1st Steps to Employment Project. The Covid pandemic rolled in but that did not stop Norman from graduating in the spring, successfully completing grade 12 and receiving his diploma from Urban Circle Adult Education Centre.  He is the first family member that he knows of, to graduate from high school! What an accomplishment and inspiration!

His goals are to continue getting an education, hopefully attain a Social Work degree and some day he wants to work with children and youth, inspiring them to stay clear of gangs, drugs, and alcohol and to choose healthy, productive life journeys.

Norman rides his bike for hours every day, going down to the banks of the Red River in downtown Winnipeg, where he will often spot eagles and pelicans soaring above. Norman is soaring with new hope and into new life!

While he appreciates his home at WICM and the supportive staff, the staff appreciate his positive and forward-thinking outlook on life. 

-documented by Linda Kirton

A Women of Strength – Karen

Karen Utech, an elected elder at Place of Hope PC and stalwart volunteer at the Miracle Store and Flora House food bank, first encountered Winnipeg Inner City Missions through the Learn & Play program led by social worker Susan Currie. First Karen, the Mom/Grandmother, worked on her own healing from a tragic past. Now she is helping her girls stay in school, develop a strong and good character, and discover hope for their own future.

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Karen explains she came from a dysfunctional family, but she bonded with Susan and over time came to seek her out for advice on things going on in her life. “Susan said I was a tough nut to crack! She made me laugh; I started feeling really good because I felt I was at home”.

“It’s not a judgmental place. They don’t care about outward appearance. They care about inward healing. All are welcome, all belong”.

A Different World – Clinton

Clinton, a participant in Winnipeg Inner City Mission’s (WICM) Transitional Housing program, has the gentlest way about him. On first meeting him, one would never believe that he struggled with alcohol for a long time, and is now 8 years sober. That’s a milestone that certainly deserves to be celebrated.  And it’s clear he feels he owes much of his current stability to WICM.

An acquaintance at another residential program told him about WICM. He said, ”They work with you.” That, Clinton felt, was different from other programs where they generally “release you into the system.

“This place really helps you through the rough spots. It gives structure. It’s a different world – quiet and peaceful.”

“It gives you time to decide what you want to do in life,” he says. Clinton worked at the mint for 18 years. “Now I like days, 8 – 4.”

He adds: “Everyone here cares. They are on the same page. That gives you stability before you leave here, which is really good. You get some stability and it helps you move on.”

Clinton, who has a 28-year-old son, feels WICM has helped him re-invent myself.

The Gift of a Better Future – D

D is a former resident and participant in WICM’s First Steps to Employment Project. For many years she convinced herself that her dependency on alcohol enhanced her personality in a positive way until she found herself in a toxic and violent relationship, working as a massage parlour Madame and left helpless by her deteriorating health. Despite becoming temporarily wheelchair bound due to alcohol related neuropathy, she recalls not being able to get out of bed and still wondering how she would get her next drink.

A volatile relationship with alcohol coupled with a series of poor choices resulted in D being fired from her job and charged with impaired driving. With no source of income, her boyfriend convinced her to grow marijuana out of the home they both shared.

Eventually, her home was raided by police and she was charged with cultivation for the purposes of trafficking, however, the charges were stayed. All these factors only added fuel to the fire. Alcohol was still very present in her life but her boyfriend’s solution was to beat her rather than support her through her recovery. At one point she was beaten so badly that she sustained brain injuries.

Feeling broken and defeated she made two life changing phone calls, one to the Winnipeg police, to lay charges against her boyfriend and another to her sister. Throughout her struggles D’s sister had disconnected from her but that fateful day she answered her call and opened her doors. She offered her a place to stay on the condition that she seek treatment.

In the spring of 2009 D arrived at Esther House, and began the journey of healing she desperately needed. It was at Esther House she met a woman who told her about AA meetings at Anishinabe and D eventually found herself at Place of Hope. She discovered WICM’s First Step to Employment Project and enrolled.

“I moved in to the 3rd floor, 308 good memory” she said with a warm smile “I was doing chores which helped me feel responsible”.

With a safe, stable and affordable environment D was able to attend school and become a certified health care aid in 2014. With each stride forward her past did not fail in creating road blocks. She recalls feeling knocked down and running into the office crying, “That love and support encouraged me to do better, someone would always be there to help me find solutions and do what was right for me”.

WICM helped her through the process of attaining a pardon which allowed her to be self-sustaining, earn a liveable wage and build her self-confidence.

In her four-year long journey, she never imagined she would meet her future husband, become a home owner and attain a career as a health care aid. All it took was steps in the right direction to begin her journey towards a better future.

– Past Resident of the First Steps Program