A local Steinbach resident relived part of her homeless experience as she participated in a recent fundraiser with Steinbach Community Outreach.
Trisha Thiessen spent one year of her life living in her car in Winnipeg. '‘I was not quite 20 yet and I ended up having to leave a bad situation. So, I ended up just living in my vehicle. I pushed the back seats down and I just slept kind of in the trunk area.’
Thiessen says that she considered herself lucky with the situation she was in. ‘I had some really nice coworkers that let me shower there. And because I was working at a convenience store, I got to eat all the write-offs, so I always had food. I could use their bathroom anytime and I slept in their parking lot because I had gotten permission to do that.’
Friends would help out when they could by providing a warm place to sleep on the winter nights it got too cold to sleep in her car. And because Thiessen worked evenings, sleeping in her car wasn’t too cold too often. 'I had a sleeping bag and I slept with my ski pants and parka on. I usually slept during the day, and then it's not quite as cold during the day, so I was lucky in that aspect’.
Living in her car was a lonely experience. Thiessen explains, ‘I had a few coworkers who knew what was going on because they had seen me in the parking lot. I just tried mostly to stay to myself. I did a lot of reading to pass the time on my own. I didn't really want any friends; I didn't really want to have to explain over and over again why I chose to live in my car.’
Thiessen connected up with a friend that was a truck driver and as they shared that sleeper truck a combined income helped them find a place to rent and she transitioned out of homelessness. She is now working at Steinbach Community Outreach.
As she thinks back on her time living in her car Thiessen reflects ‘I would never wish that on anybody. And that's why I help people not be in that situation. I work with Irene Kroeker (of Steinbach Community Outreach) and I help people find housing and support.’
In addition to helping meet the essential needs of people in the community, Steinbach Community Outreach also advocates for those in need and educates others on what the homeless experience looks like. And they recently held a new fundraising event this year focusing on what it looks like to live in a car.
Families were invited to participate and some children joined the event. They spent the night sleeping in their car to gain a greater understanding of the homeless experience.
Deb Will is a client advocate at Steinbach Community Outreach and says they do get phone calls from the community mentioning that they do see other people living in their cars.
Will says, ‘there's a lot of people that live in their cars and then we get the phone call from somebody saying, can you help them?’
According to Will sometimes, ‘there's roommate issues sometimes where the roommates are just not getting along with each other, but they've signed a lease together and, people who are struggling with addictions. Other people have lost their jobs, so we do actually have a fair number of people in the Steinbach area who we get phone calls from’
This year was a trial run for the event says Will, ‘to see what it would be like and we've got big plans for next year. We're already planning for what will happen next year.’
And Thiessen will be there helping educate on the plight of the homeless and providing support to those that need it with Steinbach Community Outreach. Even though Friesen lived in her car for a year, as she reflects, she considered herself blessed. ‘It wasn't ideal, but in my mind, I was still very blessed because I had something.’