'I love the North End': Stories of heart, hope and community in Winnipeg's core
'Never have I lived in a place where I felt so connected to my neighbours,' says North End café owner
On a wintry Tuesday afternoon, CBC Manitoba hit the streets of Winnipeg's North End to find and share stories of heart, soul and power among those who love to live there.
The stories weren't hard to find.
Here are just a few of them.
And remember, if you have a story idea for CBC Manitoba, send it to our Pitch a Story form.
In a Selkirk Avenue thrift store, a woman stands in silence, seeking solace from the streets.
She's looking for comfort, not clothing, at The Overflow, but that's OK — this is the heart of Winnipeg's North End.
"I'm here to have a business, but I'm also here to help other women," says store owner Shona Stewart.
In a small coffee shop a few blocks away, a young entrepreneur whips up a latte as she pushes her hair from her eyes.
She knows it's a gamble, starting a business here from scratch, but that's OK — this is the heart of Winnipeg's North End.
"The beauty, the culture, the diversity of the North End … a lot can be embraced here that people are missing," says Modern Coffee owner Allison Slessor.
WATCH: Modern Coffee owner Allison Slessor on why she set up shop in the North End:
Welcome to Winnipeg's North End — a sprawling chunk of real estate that fans out in the north and northwest parts of the city.
It contains some of the city's oldest neighbourhoods (think Point Douglas), and some of the most diverse, too.
There are days that I don't leave the North End at all.- Kyle Mason
It also made headlines in 2019, but not for the right reasons — there was the three-year-old boy who was fatally stabbed in his sleep on Pritchard Avenue. The baby who was injured after being caught in the gunfire during a shooting on Flora Avenue.
But while those events make the news, residents say they don't define the community.
"What doesn't get reported are the tens of thousands of really great people that are providing for their families, building their communities and just living their lives," says longtime resident Kyle Mason.
WATCH: Kyle Mason on the 'fantastic people' of the North End:
Sitting at Slesser's coffee shop, he then turns to his phone and continues what he's doing — soliciting donations for the North End community Christmas party.
"We serve 400 meals and deliver 300 presents," Mason says. With a shrug, he adds, "It's just what we do in the North End."
'I knew this was home'
It's that community connection that stops Mason from straying outside the bounds.
"There are days, multiple times, that I don't leave the North End at all," Mason says with a laugh. "Sometimes I forget there's things beyond downtown."
The North End has such a community base.- Shona Stewart
"I moved into the area eight years ago, and I knew this was home as soon as I landed," she says. "Never have I lived in a place where I felt so connected to my neighbours."
Back at The Overflow, owner Shona Stewart talks gently to the shy, quiet patron who's nervously watching the CBC camera.
"Do you want coffee? Come back for coffee, when the camera's gone and we can talk more," Stewart assures her.
WATCH: Shona Stewart on the North End's challenges and opportunities:
She then explains the backstory.
"Some girls come in and they're high and they don't know why they're coming into the store," she says. "But then I'm able to talk to them and help them see what's reality … and tell them where to go for resources and help."
North End authenticity
Melissa Cote is in the store with her own special mission. Stewart's teaching her the business skills to pursue her own North End dream — a social enterprise called Living Proof, she says.
She envisions a housing complex for North End youth aging out of care, where mentors like Cote (who herself grew up in foster care) will teach them the skills to both survive and thrive.
"Living Proof is my baby," Cote says.
WATCH: Melissa Cote on the social enterprise she's planning for youth:
And the North End, she says, is the perfect place to nurture it.
"Everyone is passionate about what they do here, either because they've gone through things themselves or it was just placed in their heart," she says. "And that's what I love about the North End."
Money doesn't grow on trees here in the North End. The community has the highest percentage of low income households in the city.
Cote says it keeps them real.
"Other neighbourhoods have the same problems, but you don't see them. Money gives you the ability to hide," she says. "Down here, we don't have money, right? We just have our experiences. And I believe that that's what's authentic."
Cote goes back to learning the business ropes. Stewart lends an ear to another customer who came in from the cold. Mason returns to his phone to solicit support for the kids' Christmas party and Slessor serves another coffee in the North End coffee shop she dared to invest in.
That's how people roll, they say, in Winnipeg's North End.
"The North End has so much community base," Stewart says, "full of unique and special people."