Winnipeg is made a little bit brighter with the growth of Sunshine House.
Located at 646 Logan Avenue, the community drop-in and resource centre focuses on harm reduction, population health promotion and social inclusion through a variety of programs. Many people who use the centre are street-involved, homeless or insecurely housed. Some are affected by HIV or hepatitis C.
Special programs manager Margaret Ormond says the program’s goal is to actively engage people and create a space where they can explore what they want. “There are no barriers in the space, and they foster a spirit of cooperation in the group,” she says.
Recently, Sunshine House launched a program for people exploring sexual and gender identity. The group, called Like That, is open to anyone in the GLBT community and is a participatory group where art serves as the main activity. “It cuts away the barriers,” says Ormond. Art from Like That has been shown in several venues, including the Millennium Library. In 2015, Like That even entered a float in the Pride Winnipeg Parade, which helped raise awareness of the fledgling group.
JD and the Sunshine Band was born out of the Sunshine House Solvent User’s Recreation Project. It is a collaboration between local musicians and street-involved folks who participate in Sunshine House programming. The band has produced and released one album, as well as two music videos, and has a second album in the works. All proceeds from album sales support the programs at the centre. Sunshine House received a MusiCounts TD Community Music Program grant of $5,000 for the project, which will go towards buying new music equipment.
Sunshine House is funded by donation and, like many other resource centres, by scrambling to get grants from various sources. Like That began when Sunshine House received an unsolicited donation from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and has since raised more than $3,500 with an online campaign and other fund-raisers, such as drag queen bingo and taco dinners. The centre’s other events, including Sunday brunches and free barbecues, also help fund the program and build relationships within the neighbourhood.
“There was a need for a group that reached perhaps more street-involved people apart from the standard LGBT events,” says Ormond. Sunshine House considers itself to be a gap-filling organization. It works with people in underserved populations and its programs fulfil social, community and recreational needs for people who might not be getting those needs from other services in Winnipeg.
Another thing that makes Sunshine House different from other organizations is its harm reduction approach. People are welcome to come as they are and are not expected to be sober. Everyone is accepted through the doors and into the programs without judgment. As part of this, Sunshine House provides harm reduction supplies, including crack pipes, syringes, tourniquets, spoons and condoms.
For more information and to donate, visit sunshinehousewpg.org.
Shandi Strong is a past vice-president of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Society, sits on fundraising committees at the Rainbow Resource Centre and acts as advocacy coordinator for Pride Winnipeg. This past Pride she became the city’s first trans Grand Marshall.