Ron Eldridge of Devoted to You Ministry is collecting items for those in need in Carman, Portage and Winnipeg. Here he stands in a storage locker in Carman with some items. He says the organization can always use items like food and clothing, but water bottles are also a desperate need since it can be hard for someone without a home to find access to fresh water on a regular basis - especially without public water fountains in Manitoba.(EMILY DISTEFANO/VALLEY LEADER)
A ministry dedicated to helping the homeless and those living below the poverty line has moved to Carman.
Ron Eldridge started Devoted to You Street Ministry close to 14 years ago with the goal of helping the homeless in Winnipeg. But he said supporters in southern Manitoba began asking what they could do out here.
“We were travelling back and forth to our church (in Carman),” he said. “A lot of people from Carman and Portage were calling, saying they had a lot of people living under the poverty line that could really use our help.”
Knowing they could make a difference prompted Ron and his wife Marsha to make the move.
“We’re living here now and we work between Portage and Carman doing what we can for the people,” he said.
Although those needing help in rural areas aren’t as visible as the homeless in Winnipeg, Eldridge said the need is very real. “There’s a lot of people under the poverty line, we have single parents with children that need help to clothe their children, also with food and things of that nature.”
Eldridge said homeless people do exist in Portage and other centres.
“They’re what you would call hidden homeless, because they stay away from the main street,” he said.
Eldridge understands the challenges that come with being homeless.
“I was homeless myself for 13 years, from 1974 to 1987,” he said. “I got off the street because a lady in Winnipeg was really interested in my story. She started talking to me and she decided she wanted to help me get cleaned up and off the street and get my life going again.”
Thanks to her support Eldridge was successful at getting off the street, but the story has an even happier ending. “In 1996 I wound up marrying that lady that helped me get off the street,” he said. “Without Marsha I think I would probably still be out there.”
His ministry began shortly after his marriage.
“I felt it was something heavy on my heart to get out there and work with everybody that needs help,” he said.
The support for his ministry has been overwhelming.
“We’ve got people donating from all over Manitoba,” he said.
The group is also supported by two churches, Carman Pentecostal, and Highway Pentecostal in Portage.
People can help the ministry with donations of good used clothing, bottled water, gift cards or monetary donations.
Eldridge knows they’re making a difference, but he said he hopes they can make an even bigger impact in years to come.
“We’re hoping in the next few years that we’ll be able to open up a shelter in Portage,” he said. “We want to offer beds, food, counselling.”
Currently they also fill backpacks with personal hygiene items to give to the homeless. Nearly 300 of those stored at Highway Pentecostal await those who need them right now.
To learn more find Devoted to You Street Ministry on Facebook, call 204-750-1228 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.