Whether it’s called the Giving Tree, Giving Fence or Giving Rack, it doesn’t change the difference it could make for people who are homeless. 

A Giving Tree has been set up in Steinbach, making important items available to the homeless community. 

Lillis Penner says she’s been wanting to set this up for a long time. 

“I know a few of the homeless people by name and I just wanted to do something to help. So, I have come up with my Giving Fence and my church is definitely going to be helping me as well because I won't be able to sustain it alone.”  

Penner recognizes that there might be times when people could really use some items when support is nowhere to be found. 

“How do you get them things? Steinbach Community Outreach is amazing but they’re open 9:30 to 3:30, Monday to Friday. What happens if you need a pair of socks when it's wet and cold or rainy or whatever, after 3:30? Where do you get hand warmers? Where do you get food? Where do you get whatever?” 

Prior to setting it up, Penner checked with Irene Kroeker at Steinbach Community Outreach, to find out if this option might truly be helpful. 

The response was positive, so Penner and her husband got to work. 

The Giving Fence is set up in their yard near the intersection of Brandt and First Street. 

Penner says she got some help with understanding what items would make a difference for the homeless community. 

“We know one guy that knocked on the door a few days before it actually went up, and we ended up going to get him a care package from Walmart and whatever. And he really gave me a sense of what he actually needs. You know, they need things like disposable razors and travel size shaving cream, underwear. Just things that give you some dignity back. Like the things that really would be good, would be hand wipes. Because, if you're homeless, how do you have a shower and a bath? You can't. So, you know, deodorant. Because they don't want to smell bad. They don't want to feel bad. A bath makes everybody feel better.” 

Penner has also set up a suggestion box, wanting to know what people need so that she can try to source those items. 

“I'm hoping to get things like water and Gatorade eventually. I would really like to start maybe one Saturday a month saying we're going to have a BBQ or chili in a bun or something. And see how people react. Maybe they want to keep the anonymity.” 

She plans to put out sandwiches every day around 5pm and hopes to get donations of fruit cups or apple sauce. 

You can reach Penner via email at Lillisgivingfence@gmail.com if you would like to learn more about this unique way of connecting with the homeless community. 

-With files from Carly Koop.