Steinbach groups tackle poverty and homelessness

STEINBACH, MB - As fast-growing Steinbach swells with new opportunity, the city - and its churches - also readies to face the rising problem of poverty and homelessness.

It's not a new problem. A growing issue for years, community members in this southeastern Manitoba town of about 13,000 people are gaining awareness. Individuals and organizations are forming partnerships to meet needs; particularly for food, shelter and employment.

"Shelter is the single most difficult thing to find in Steinbach for people who are desperately poor," says Community Outreach coordinator Irene Kroeker. "There are no low-cost rental units available on such short notice, and even long term there are very few units available." At present there are no emergency shelters.

Community Outreach, a brainchild of Steinbach Mennonite Church, works to bridge the gap between community service groups and the church to provide for physical and spiritual needs in the city. The outreach partners with local agencies like South East Helping Hands, the RCMP, Eden East, Youth Internship Program and others.

Community Outreach serves 100 people through their office at any given time. "Most of these individuals have no means of support financially nor are they connected with agencies that can help," says Kroeker. She estimates that in 2010 there were 170 homeless in Steinbach, 140 of whom were placed in permanent housing.

Kroeker knows the stories behind the numbers. "I received a phone call from a 24-year-old girl, eight months pregnant, and unable to find a place to live. She [became] homeless. As I worked at this issue, I found myself wishing that we could have that shelter up and running sooner rather than later."

Meanwhile Community Outreach does what it can. "While they wait for housing, we do what we can—provide blankets, winter wear, meals from the freezer, etc," says Kroeker.

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