Winnipeg philanthropist happy to share wealth with homeless

Winnipeg philanthropist Gail Morberg jokes she can't take it with her.

Family of 'homeless hero' thrilled people with 'good hearts' using their money to help others

Winnipeg philanthropist Gail Morberg has donated more than half a million dollars to buy a house for the homeless at 311 Provencher Blvd. (Marianne Klowak/CBC)

Winnipeg philanthropist Gail Morberg jokes she can't take it with her.

She and her husband built one of Canada's largest privately-owned airlines, Calm Air. Carl Morberg died in 2005 and the airline was sold. 

Now Gail is giving back to the province where she and her husband made their wealth. She has financed a new kitchen at Siloam Mission, given over $1 million to a local charity, and has now purchased a St. Boniface house for the homeless.

Tour of Morberg House

CBC News: Winnipeg at 6:00

5 years ago
New home for St. Boniface homeless commemorates 'homeless hero' Faron Hall. 1:39

"Someone has to do this," Morberg chuckled. "It's just a drop in the bucket. Look at how many homeless people we have in the city. What about their children?  I can do it, so why not? I can't take it with me, it's something interesting to do. Come on people, we need a lot more housing."

Morberg House officially opened today at 311 Provencher Boulevard, a tribute to Faron Hall, Winnipeg's "homeless hero." The residence will also house Street Links, a non-profit organization helping the homeless in St. Boniface.

Morberg paid around $550,000 for the house that was at one time owned by the Fransican Sisters, a Catholic order serving the poor and homeless in St. Boniface.

A 'roof over my head'

Joseph Miller has lived on the streets for more than 30 years and was a friend of Faron Hall. Both lived at the foot of the bridge in St. Boniface. Now Miller has a place to lay his head.

He is one of three street people to move into Morberg House. 
Joseph Miller who knew Faron Hall and himself has been homeless, will call Morberg House home. "It's a great place,' he said. (Brad Lillies/CBC)

"Now I have a roof over my head. It's a great place. Now I can think about looking for work and maybe school. I don't have any definite plans yet, but this place is good," said Miller. He is still battling addiction and plans to go back into treatment.

Faron Hall's family was at today's official opening. Hall's uncle Patrick is moved by the kindness of strangers.

"I feel really good about it," said Hall. "To know that people really care enough to do this. People with good hearts and good minds who are using their money to help others."

Faron Hall would be 'overwhelmed with joy'

Patrick Hall met Gail Morberg for the first time. 

"God makes angels and I believe she is one of them. To commit to something that money can't buy, to show you love people, people you don't know, I have so much respect for her and I know Faron would feel the same," said Hall.
Matthew Hall, 21, says he's proud Morberg House commemorates his cousin's act of selflessness, when Faron Hall rescued a teen from the Red River. (Brad Lillies/CBC)

Faron Hall's cousin Matthew believes the homeless hero is smiling.

"I am so happy to be here because Faron and I shared the same blood, the same heart, the same values. There wouldn't be any words for him to express or comprehend the joy of today. He would be overwhelmed with joy and happiness," said Matthew.

Sisters thrilled with future of former home

Faron's family weren't the only ones elated with today's announcement. Eighty-two-year-old Sr. Florence Bours, a Franciscan sister, lived in the house years ago. She is in Winnipeg on holidays and heard about the open house. She was surprised to see the renovations to the building. She's thrilled the mission of the house will remain the same.

"This is so wonderful, I am so proud to be here and see what is being done with our former home."

 Sr. Anne Adounkpe, with the same order, plans to volunteer at Morberg House.

"To see this house will be for the homeless, it is such a blessing. I thank God. Now we have an opportunity where we can help other people in what was at one time our house. We will continue to serve our brothers and sisters in St. Boniface. We are so grateful."