Two years ago, Adult & Teen Challenge got some horrible news: two people on the waiting list for their women's addictions treatment program had passed away.
One had died from alcohol poisoning. The other, a sex trade worker, had died in Winnipeg.
"They found her body frozen, stuck between two buildings," recalled Teen Choice's executive director for Central Canada Steven Paulson. "She was on our waiting list, we'd interviewed her just two weeks before."
The Christian addiction recovery program, which has helped Manitobans since 1995, knew they needed more space than their 100-year-old building offered.
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So on Sunday, Teen Challenge celebrated the opening of their new 9,000-square-foot Brandon facility.
Construction started in the spring. Paulson says they paid $850,000, but with in-kind gifts he pegs the total closer to $1.4 million.
The community stepped up, he said, with materials, furniture, services, labour — and money.
"Just a few days ago, a man came up to me whose niece was in the program a while ago, didn't complete the program and passed away," Paulson said.
"And he said, 'My wife and I want to know how much you still owe on [the] building.' And we said, 'So that we don't have any debt, we need $39,000.' And he came to me with a cheque and he said, 'I want to pay this building off, I don't want there to be any debt, I want this program because it's so needed."
The old building housed eight residential clients, but now 16 can stay, along with apartments for four staff members.
Clients could only shower every other day, as water had to be trucked into a cistern.
The old building's heater quit just as the cold snap hit Thursday night. Paulson said they huddled around the fireplace the whole night with blankets, trying to keep warm.
Paulson called the Hydro inspector to ask if there was any way they could move in a few days early. Sure enough, they were given a temporary permit.
On Sunday morning, one client graduated after 14 months of sobriety. Paulson said it was a wonderful way to start things at the new building.
"These young ladies that live on the streets — not because they want to, but because of circumstances in their lives to survive," Paulson said, "to know that there's a place where they can come, they can be safe, they can be loved, they can be cared for, they can be educated, it's a wonderful experience. It's amazing, it's miraculous, really."