House of Hesed

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'House of Mercy' comforts AIDS victims
Second transitional home opens downtown
by Leah Janzen

House of MercyMoe Feakes’ growing family moved into a new, bigger house in downtown Winnipeg yesterday. None of the residents is actually related to Feakes – or to each other for that matter – but Feakes insists the 10 people who call House of Hesed are indeed a family. House of Hesed, named after the Hebrew word for ‘mercy’ is a transitional home for people living with HIV/AIDS. Six years ago, with help from volunteers and charitable donations Feakes opened the first House of Hesed on Langside Street. That house had rooms for 6 residents and Feakes soon realized the demand was much greater. Yesterday representatives from the 3 levels of government converged at a newly renovated turn of the century brick home on Edmonton Street to officially open the new House of Hesed.

The move – funded in part by a $409,944 contribution from the federal government – allows House of Hesed to accept up to 10 residents. Feakes who direct the operation is not worried the beds wont be filled. “We already know we need more space”, she said. “We still have a waiting list. There could be a whole bunch more homes”. House of Hesed is a transitional home. Residents usually stay for between 3 and 6 months – enough time to get stronger physically and find their own place to live.

Since the first House of Hesed opened in December 1998, a total of 35 men and women with HIV/AIDS have called the facility home. Some residents have died while living there. Others like Jonathan Carrington, 44, have learned to live. Carrington found out he was HIV positive in March 1989. Despondent, he decided he would forgo the promising drug therapies and “let the disease take its course.” Ten years later, Carrington moved into House of Hesed, began taking medications and has been there ever since. Carrington said, “Finding affordable housing and proper care can be difficult for people with HIV/AIDS.

Living at House of Hesed has given him the support and comfort few others get, he said. “I know a lot of people who develop this disease don’t have the resources I have here”, said Carrington. “They end up living in low rental apartments, which are usually in not very good areas of the city. They have to put up with a lot of discrimination. There is a lot of love and compassion in this house. Without it, I really don’t know where I’d be. The people who are living here are just like my family.” In his time at House of Hesed, Carrington has watched two of his fellow residents succumb to the disease.

But Feakes points out the home is not a hospice and is not a place where people come to die. “People come from the hospital to convalesce further,” she said. “Quite often they have given up hope. They come here and they literally join a family.” House of Hesed is the only facility of its kind in Manitoba. Most of the money and volunteers needed to support the program come from a variety of churches in Winnipeg and around the province.

Article in the Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday September 18, 2004