Twenty-one-year-old Dorian McDonald has experienced winter in a way that many will never have to. 
McDonald has been homeless for the past year, which happened shortly after moving to Steinbach to be with family and escape homelessness in Winnipeg. He admittedly made bad decisions and found himself back on the street. McDonald recalls trying to stay warm during bitter winter temperatures by trying to warm up on bus shack heaters or going through recycling bins to find cardboard to build himself a make-shift house with, and then burn newspaper to keep warm.

McDonald says for the most part he went from house to house for places to sleep, which is referred to as "couch surfing" and is why homelessness does not often have a visible city presence during colder weather. 
Homelessness is not just uncomfortable, it's dangerous. Especially so in Winnipeg. While sharing his cardboard home with three other homeless men during winter and trying to keep them warm at his fire, he was attacked and robbed for ten dollars by one of the men. Another incident occurred at a bus shelter where a stranger accused him of being a "fake homeless guy" and sprayed bear mace in his face. McDonald says even when the weather is nice, you can't go to sleep during the night for fear of being robbed or stabbed.
After recognizing McDonald was in bad shape on the street, a stranger tried to help him, and eventually, he was referred to Today House in Steinbach.
Irene Kroeker recalls the first time McDonald arrived at Today House. "When Dorian came in, he had bronchitis, a broken ankle and needed some TLC and anti-biotics." After staying at Today House for a few days, McDonald appreciated having the staff listen to him and acknowledge the rough time he's been through. He said he felt the genuine caring from every one of the staff members. "At the Today House, they helped me and they made me feel like I was a part of their family. Irene and the ladies at Today House are my angels!"
Kroeker says Today House is equipped to house four people at a time, but during winter, they don't turn people away and rather put them up in a hotel. She says Today House is a nurturing environment for those that stay with them. "If you stay at Today House, you have someone to talk to, someone that takes care of you, someone who brings you food, someone to make sure you're warm at night and those types of things. And it's different than if you're in a hotel alone and have to face your problems all by yourself, so it's probably nicer being at the Today House." McDonald jumps in and agrees whole-heartily, "It's much nicer at Today House!"
McDonald has grown up in foster care since the age of three, and now has trouble being able to trust people after having some bad experiences. He recalls his older brother, Nevin, always trying to look out for him, even when he was just a child himself. After being sent from foster home to foster home, McDonald finally landed up in a great foster home where his foster dad encouraged him to finish school as well as learn to be a carpenter. McDonald is proud of his carpentry skills and of being the first one in his family to graduate from high school, thanks to his foster dad and mom, whom he loves and respects very much.
McDonald admits that because of his bad decisions and actions, he became homeless and says he knows what he has to do now. "I need to focus on me. I was always focused on girls, but I need to focus on myself before I can love anyone else." McDonald has had to learn some hard lessons, but his time at Today House has given him inspiration to let down his guard, and try to be "the old Dorian" again, and allow that tender heart of his to emerge once more. "They made me feel like I had a family again."
Irene Kroeker adds that Today House is all about nurturing people who have had a really rough time, like McDonald has. "They
Dorian McDonald in his new home.

do truly care about people that come to Today House. And I think that is noticeable as soon as you walk in the door. We want them here, we invite them here and we're happy they're here!"
Kroeker helped find McDonald a safe, warm place to live, which he moved into just this past Saturday. She helped him select household items from Steinbach Community Outreach, as well as helped him find other basic items at the MCC Thrift Store. Kroeker hopes the public continues to donate to Today House, Steinbach Community Outreach and Helping Hands, so items are available when emergency needs arise. "When it is so cold, it is an emergency! They need to have a warm place to sleep tonight, and we do our best to try to make that happen. It is sure a whole lot easier when there are donations and resources that we can choose from in emergency situations, and make sure we have what we need immediately."
When asked what kinds of resources are most needed, Kroeker says food is always very important, and if you donate to any of the three organizations mentioned, they share their resources with each other. "We do work together a lot, and we do try to make sure that between all of us we have everything a person can need. But I'm not talking "wants and wishes", I'm talking about the absolute basics; a warm place to live, food and clothing that they can walk from place to place."
Kroeker says all their donations need to be replenished, so household items are always welcomed. Think about having nothing, and having to furnish an apartment - all those types of items are needed, from coffee makers to towels, to sheet sets, to cutlery. "We do have one need here at Steinbach Community Outreach that is very difficult to fill, and that is we never seem to have enough soaps; laundry soap, bars of soap, dish washing soap, because once we do place them, everything they bring in has to be cleaned and they want to stay clean, so we go through a lot of soap. It's kind of an odd thing to ask for, but that is one need we never seem to have enough of."
Today House also needs more nurturing volunteers to stay with homeless people while at Today House, so call Irene Kroeker at 204-326-7954 or email for more information.
The last words belong to Dorian McDonald, who is officially not  homeless any longer, and to whom I wish the very best. "Just be kind. That's the best thing you can do, is be kind."