Manitoba

Founder of Morberg House shocked after $430K in donations pour in

Donations have poured in from across the country — including $400,000 from an anonymous donor — to a St. Boniface house for homeless men battling addiction that was on the verge of shutting its doors due to dire financial straits. 

Funds will help keep shelter for homeless men battling addiction open

Jared Gerlinger and Kyle McKenzie say Winnipeg's Morberg House has helped them beat addiction and give them hope for the future. (Marianne Klowak/CBC)

Donations have poured in from across the country — including $400,000 from an anonymous donor — to a St. Boniface house for homeless men battling addiction that was on the verge of shutting its doors due to dire financial straits. 

A week ago, Morberg House founder Marion Willis told CBC News that her 12-bed transitional house was at risk of closing in December if it didn't raise $200,000 to meet its payroll obligations and pay off its debt. 

Since then, about $430,000 — more than double the amount Willis sought — has come in through donations from not only Manitobans, but also from donors across Canada, including Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Alta., Ottawa, Toronto and Corner Brook, N.L. 

"It is beyond belief," said Willis, founder of Morberg House and St. Boniface Street Links.  "This is beyond my wildest dreams."

Willis said the anonymous donor who sent $400,000 for Morberg House lives outside the province and was inspired by the grassroots organization's successful treatment model.

"All I can tell you is that the person is someone who followed CBC Manitoba's coverage on the meth crisis and the stories CBC did on Morberg House, stories about the lives of our clients and how they have hope and a future now," said Willis, adding she signed a legal agreement to not disclose the person's identity.

Day of celebration

Willis says clients and staff were anxious about what would happen to them, with some saying they were "prepared to go down with the Titanic no matter what."

They are now relieved and celebrating the windfall. 

"This is a tremendous win for St. Boniface Street Links but the real winners are those who really need this program. It would have been absolutely devastating for the people we serve if we had to close," said Willis.

The money will go to pay off a huge debt against the house and an accumulated line of credit, plus secure operations into the new year, buying Willis some breathing room. 

"This isn't over. The money will go very quickly. We will have to continue to fundraise on an ongoing basis but at least we … know the ship is not sinking." said Willis.

Willis points out it could have been a very different outcome. Some clients who are serving their sentence at Morberg House are relieved they won't have to go back into custody or spend Christmas on the streets.

Willis is excited to send personal thank you notes to everyone who made a donation.

"Thank you seems like such a small word. This is such a good news story when there isn't a lot of good news. Thank you. Thank you to everyone."

Marianne Klowak

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