House of Hesed

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05 Feb 2016 » Comedy Night
AIDS Home Funding Defended

By Shannon Martin
Swerve - November 2004


When Jonathan Carrington became very sick in 1999, he didn’t have anywhere to go. He’d been living with HIV/AIDS for ten years, and at the time, couldn’t take care of himself. Then someone suggested House of Hesed, which means mercy in Hebrew. House of Hesed is a transitional home for people like Carrington, who are alone, homeless, and infected with HIV/AIDS.

However, the house has partnered with the Winnipeg chapter of New Directions for Life, a Christian support agency that offers guidance to men and women who are, according to its web site, “choosing to leave homosexuality.”

Tye Gamey, executive director for New Directions, says his organization doesn’t force faith on any residents. “The House of Hesed is there to provide care, regardless of their sexual orientation. You [residents] don’t have to have the same interest as the faith-based ministry,” says Gamey, adding New Directions does all of the house’s administration work. “It’s just a safe place to live…just a home, a private home where people come and go.”

Carrington says he immediately felt uncomfortable because of the house’s ties to New Directions for Life. “I’ve suffered a lot of personal anguishes on the outside, and I had already been discriminated against as a gay man, a drag queen, and having HIV/AIDS. I thought, ‘this is the last place I want to go. I’d get discriminated [against]’,” he says.

However, that has not been the case. Carrington says sexual orientation or religion never came up throughout the application process. “It isn’t pushed,” he says. “I’ll come bouncing down the stairs in drag, and no one says anything. It’s my home…my sexuality is never an issue.”

Maureen Feakes, founder and director of House of Hesed, says providing care to the residents is her main priority. “We provide basic necessities, value and worth that we’re children of God, creator of the universe, they’re priceless… so they know that they’re loved.”

Feakes started House of Hesed in 1998 after volunteering with Kali Shiva and watching people with HIV/AIDS live in “deplorable situations.” She says her concept is simple. “Everyone needs a home, love, shelter,” she says. “That’s the bottom line.” Since opening the original house on Langside in West Broadway, Feakes has seen over 38 residents come through the doors. The residents moved into a new home on Edmonton Street this past spring, thanks to a one-time donation from the Winnipeg Housing and Homelessness Initiative. The funding restored the three-story home, originally built in the 1900s.

The new home is user-friendly, offering residents a dispensary, office, visiting rooms, spacious bedrooms, and updated kitchen and washrooms. It is also bigger, with enough room for one full-time staff member and eight part-time workers.

There are only eight residents at the moment, even though there is room for ten residents. This is due to lack of money. “Even now, every day we’re having to say ‘no,’” says Feakes about turning away potential residents. “There’s definitely a need out there.”

House of Hesed is funded by donations, mostly from churches, says Carrington. He says he feels better now than when he first came to the house. He even recently hosted a fund-raising drag show as his drag persona, Shauna Raye, at Club 200, selling a hundred tickets. He’s happy to be able to give back to the home that’s helped him over the years. “It’s my way of saying thank you.”