From homeless to helper

Michele struggled with addiction and lived on the streets for a few years, but that never stopped her from giving back.

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“Today, I’m glad to be alive.

In my twenties, I had big dreams for myself. I went to university to earn a degree in community studies. But because I was also using hard drugs, things didn’t work out the way I thought they would.

After graduating, I ended up living in the streets for four years because of my drug use.

When I was homeless, I would always utilize any resources out there, like food banks, shelters, and drop-in centres. So, I became familiar with United Way as someone who relied on community services for survival.

“I might have been dead today if I hadn’t volunteered.”

At a United Way donor-supported food bank, I made a real connection with someone who was working there. She was so loving and caring and never judgemental. It became a place of solace. I just wanted to go in there and talk.

Eventually, I started volunteering because I wanted to give back.

Volunteerism has always been an important value in my family. My mother volunteered and so did her sister. Even while I was using drugs, I’d volunteer because it made me get up and go out.

“Volunteering makes me feel good, that’s the number one reason why I do it,” said Michele.

As someone who also struggles with depression, I might have been dead today if I hadn’t volunteered. If you have nothing but time on your hands, why not give that time?

I learned many skills through volunteering, it helps me in networking and keeps my brain active. For me, it’s been nothing but beneficial. I recommend it!

Many people are afraid to volunteer, but we could overcome that with communication, by reaching out and talking to someone you don’t know. A smile does a lot. The language doesn’t matter—it’s what is in your heart that counts.

Today, I have a place to live, and I’m no longer a hard drug user. I’m 62 years old, and I’m alive!”

Help change lives like Michele’s in Winnipeg now.

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Katie BergmanMichele