Randy's story begins in Alberta. (not his real name) We know that Randy got a ride from a well meaning lady who was travelling from the west back home to Manitoba. It's unclear how these two connected or what Randy's motivations were for coming to Manitoba, but we do know he arrived with no ID and only the clothes on his back. With his medications not readily accessible Randy eventually found himself first at the Ste. Anne Hospital, and then the hospital in Steinbach. When his condition stabilized he was released. With no where to turn he set up camp in front of the hospital.
We often get calls about people who are strangers who are stranded in Steinbach. When someone in unfortunate circumstances finds their way into town the easy thing to do is bring them to Winnipeg and drop them off at one of the shelters there. However at Outreach there's quite a process when we help stranded strangers. It's a process that can take anywhere from one afternoon to several weeks so we can ensure we are helping this person in the best way possible. The most important question in this process is "What do you want to happen and how can we help make that happen?"
After a lengthy conversation with Randy he said he would return to his friend's house, which was quite a ways out of town; the woman who had brought him here. Hilda tried to phone the friend multiple times but got no answer so he said he would go anyway and maybe by the time he got there she would be home. Hilda also brought Randy some food, paid for his meds and called a cab to bring him back to his friend's place.
A couple of days later we had several calls again about Randy. His friend had not let him stay so he had made his way back to town and was again camped in front of the hospital. Again we sat down with him and discussed various options. He had spent a couple of nights in the hospital but was now sleeping rough so a plan was made to try Main Street Project. He was able to crash at someone's house that night and Irene drove him to Winnipeg the next morning. Randy found Main Street Project overwhelming so he phoned the friend who had brought him to Manitoba and she came and picked him up and dropped him back in Steinbach.
Once again we had calls about Randy. This was a gentleman who was truly stranded in a way that we had never seen anyone stranded before. He was getting good care at the hospital, but had nowhere to turn on his release. We continued to try connecting with friends and family, including the woman who had brought him to Manitoba and finally connected with his sister. He desperately wanted to get back to Alberta but with Covid travel restrictions and no ID, getting him there seemed nearly impossible.
In Randy's case he had a sister that was willing to pay for a plane ticket or bus ticket to get him home, but Randy had no ID and we do not have connections in Alberta to get copies of his ID. We also know from experience that it takes up to 6 months to get new copies of ID for people. Getting on a bus or plane without ID is not possible so that was not an option for Randy.
Picking someone up from afar and dropping them in Steinbach may seem like a good and helpful thing to do, because we have a very generous city, but often it does more harm than good. It takes them away from resources they are already familiar with, like what day of the week the store tosses their expired food out, and the bank teller that recognizes him because he already lost his debit card 20 times this year and knows how to help him, or which restaurant will give him a free cup of coffee on a rainy day. He had really good benefits set up with EIA in Alberta to support him, but here in Manitoba he could not access those funds.
We had a team of 6 people coming up with ideas and options with Randy but there was really only one option that was viable. To get him back to his sister in Alberta where his resources and support system were. But how if you can't get on a bus or a plane? It wouldn't be responsible to send someone hitchhiking in the middle of a pandemic and even if he did want to hitchhike we doubted he would survive that journey. There was only one thing to do. We would have to drive him.
Let me be clear here. We are a local charity serving only Steinbach and surrounding areas. The farthest we go is Winnipeg and then only if circumstances require it and if no other arrangements can be made. We are not a bus service that transports people inter-provincially. So, after several more days of making arrangements and checking restrictions, Irene and Tammy, our most experienced advocates, volunteered their time on a weekend and use of their own vehicle, in the middle of a pandemic when travel restrictions were at their tightest, to drive Randy back. This is WAY above and beyond what we expect from our volunteers but it goes to show the level of dedication and commitment of our staff, and the amount of time and energy it takes to help a stranger who gets stranded on the streets in Steinbach, to a place where they feel supported both physically and mentally.