Homeless man receives Queen's Jubilee Award for saving others on cold Meadow Lake streets

Ernest McPherson, a homeless man in Meadow Lake, Sask., has been recognized with a Queen's Platinum Jubilee medal for his efforts to patrol the streets at night in search of other homeless people who may be freezing to death.

Ernest McPherson's night patrols inspired others, and spurred on community action

Ernest McPherson wears a blue shirt with the Queen's Platinum Jubilee medal pinned to his chest at the awards ceremony in a Saskatoon hotel.
Ernest McPherson, a homeless man from the small, northern city of Meadow Lake, Sask., sports a new shirt that was given to him to wear for a medal ceremony at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Saskatoon. (Travis Reddaway/CBC)

Ernest McPherson wasn't really sure how he'd travel 250 kilometres from Meadow Lake to Saskatoon to collect the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Medal.

The 54-year-old homeless man told CBC News, "I might have to hitch-hike."

In the end, he asked Natanis Bundschuh, the manager of the local soup kitchen where McPherson eats lunch every day, to drive him to the downtown Saskatoon hotel to receive the medal in honour of his public service.

"It's awesome to see someone in our community receiving an honour like that for going above and beyond, and caring for people that he doesn't have to care about, but he does," said Bundschuh, executive director of Meadow Lake Outreach Ministries.

The Saskatchewan government is giving out 7,000 Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medals to honour significant contributions and achievements. McPherson is one of 100 Métis citizens to receive the medal this week during special ceremonies hosted by Métis Nation–Saskatchewan.

A man in a blue shirt and Métis vest pins a medal on another Métis man with long hair and sunglasses.
Glen McCallum, president of Métis Nation–Saskatchewan (MN–S), gives the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Medal to Ernest McPherson, one of 100 Métis people being recognized for going above and beyond for others. (Travis Reddaway/CBC)

Night patrols

In November, CBC News shared the story of McPherson's night patrols.

At that time, the small city with a population of 5,300, didn't have anywhere for vulnerable people to warm up after 4 p.m. CST or on weekends. 

McPherson searches back alleys, vehicles, and old buildings for homeless people who may have fallen asleep in the cold. He said a "guardian angel" who kicked him awake in freezing temperatures last winter saved his life, and he's trying to pay it forward. He will often wake someone up, get them moving, give them warm clothing or take them to 7-Eleven or an ATM lobby for a brief respite from the cold.

WATCH | Ernest McPherson nearly froze to death one night. Now, he checks on others: 

Homeless man patrols community to save others from freezing to death

7 months ago
Duration 2:27
A homeless man in northern Saskatchewan walks the streets every night to save himself and others from freezing to death, because there is no homeless shelter or warming centre in his community.

"It's a great honour to be recognized for everything that I've done to help the homeless in Meadow Lake," he said after the ceremony. "I'm just so happy that to be here today, to speak for them, to be recognized." 

His story has not only touched people. It's also helped to spur on community action.

Emergency shelter in the works

In December, Meadow Lake Outreach Ministries found volunteers and donations to open the Door of Hope drop-in centre overnight as a warming centre. It's open 20 hours a day, including from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m.. There are no beds, but people are allowed to sleep in chairs or on the floor.

'It only made sense for us to do what we can while we wait for a shelter," said Bundschuh.

Natanis Bundschuh, executive director of Meadow Lake Outreach Ministries Inc., operates a drop-in center and soup kitchen in the small city. In December, its hours expanded to 20 hours a day to provide warm refuge overnight until the end of March.
Natanis Bundschuh is the executive director of Meadow Lake Outreach Ministries Inc. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

The temporary warming spot can get up to 15 people on a really cold night. They plan to stay open overnight until the end of March, when the weather warms up.

Meanwhile, a new homeless coalition is making progress on setting up a 25-bed emergency homeless shelter to be operational for next winter.

Kirt Prete, the owner of PineRidge Ford auto dealership, leased an old church hall to the coalition for $1 and donated $20,000 cash. The owner of a construction company, Al MacFarlane of Meadow Lake Properties, donated $20,000 in materials and labour. 

An old seniors home was sold to Home Plate by a local business for $1.00 so it can be turned into a emergency shelter in Meadow Lake.
The old church hall that will now be turned into the Home Plate's emergency shelter. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

The City of Meadow Lake updated zoning bylaws to allow for the shelter and donated beds from an old seniors home.

"The best feedback I've had from major government organizations is, 'You guys are on the right track, you've done good things, you got business support, you got city support, you just gotta keep at it,'" said Bob Steeg, chair of the Meadow Lake Home Plate Coalition Corp..

Renovations for the Home Plate Emergency Shelter are needed before it an open.
Inside the old church hall, where volunteers are needed to help with renovations to turn the space into a 25-bed emergency homeless shelter. It will accommodate hot showers for clients. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

They are looking for volunteers to help finish the renovations.

In addition, the coalition has received a major grant from the Métis Nation–Saskatchewan to start a transitional housing program. It plans to hire a project manager in the next couple months.

McPherson's only shelter, a truck camper propped up on a stand, burned down. He doesn't know how or who did it, but he is once again back on the streets with the people he helps.

This time, he can find refuge at the warming centre overnight.

And, he hopes, an emergency homeless shelter or transitional housing in the near future.

Ernest McPherson in a trailer he once owned but has been since burned down.
Ernest and his truck trailer he purchased through collecting cans and asking friends to help out. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)


Bonnie Allen

Senior reporter

Bonnie Allen is a senior news reporter for CBC News based in Saskatchewan. She has covered stories from across Canada and around the world, reporting from various African countries for five years. She holds a master's degree in international human rights law from the University of Oxford. You can reach her at