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Grant makes move possible for hospice ministry

New location is home sweet home for House of Hesed residents

(Appeared in February 2004 Manitoba Edition of Christian Current)

WINNIPEG – The three-storey Langside house could be anyone’s home. A man answers the door, two dogs run down the hall, someone is watching TV and two people are chatting over coffee in the kitchen. But what draws the people in this house together are not family ties, but the fact that they are living with HIV/AIDS.

In Manitoba, 1,025 men and women have tested positive for HIB since 1985, according to HIV/AIDS Statistics Canada. Officials estimate the actual number is much higher, as some people live with the virus but remain unaware that they are infected.

Since 1998, House of Hesed, a non-profit, non-denominational ministry, has provided a transition home in Winnipeg for those living with HIV/AIDS. In March, Hesed will move to a new three-storey, 100-year-old home, allowing them to accommodate more residents at one time.

Just blocks from the Legislature, the red brick home will accommodate 10 people and one live-in caregiver. With five bathrooms, a separate medical dispensary, a beautiful porch, and staff, visitor and recreation rooms, the home comes straight from God, says House of Hesed director Maureen (Moe) Feakes.

Just Right
“It’s a real blessing. It’s just the right house,” says Feakes, who has been involved with House of Hesed since the beginning. “It feels peaceful.”

The expansion was made possible by a government grant of more than $400,000 from the Winnipeg Housing and Homelessness Initiative, says Harold Jantz, chair of the House of Hesed board. Jantz was instrumental in obtaining the grant, which will be used to purchase and renovate the new home.

However, Feakes is quick to point out that the organization receives no regular government funding. Residents pay a nominal room and board fee; the remaining costs are covered by private donations and churches, as well as in-kind support. For example, Kitchen Craft donated materials to renovate the existing kitchen and House of Hesed is counting on volunteers to help paint the new house.

Staff will continue to provide the same services at the new location, including giving regular medications, keeping track of doctor appointments, grocery shopping and basically creating a comfortable, caring home for residents.

“Bottom line is that we really want people to know that they’re valued and loved and that God loves them,” says Feakes, whose best friend died of AIDS in 1992. “There’s a lot of hugging,” she adds.

Filling the gap
House of Hesed has been home to 35 residents aged 24 to 63 years old during the past five years, all with different reasons for being there. “Some people just need to be here to get them back on their feet. Others need extended convalescence,” says Feakes.

“There’s no other place like it in Manitoba. So we fill a very decided gap,” says Jantz.

Instead of languishing in a hospital when they don’t need to be there or dying in “scuzzy” situations, people find a home at House of Hesed, says Feakes. Staff members also address emotional and spiritual needs, which are often not met in a hospital setting.

House of Hesed takes its name from the Hebrew word for mercy.

“We see the house and the care that people give through the house as an expression of God’s mercy to those that come there,” says Jantz. “We’ve seen some quite profound changes in the lives of those who have been there.”

For example, says Feakes, one man who came to House of Hesed appeared to be near death, but with care moved on to live independently.

“People have given up hope. They don’t think anybody cares. They’re ready to go,” Feakes explains. “We provide that sense of hope; that they’re not totally alone.”

- Jennifer Verch