Marion Willis: Giving a Voice to Those Least Heard

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Marion Willis: Winnepeg-based Founder & Executive of St. Boniface Street Links

Marion Willis first started recognizing the social injustices around her at a young age. Working to lift people up out of their struggles and poverty is something that brings Willis immense joy, and you can see it in the passion she has for her work and those surrounding her.

When did you start to realize that you wanted to dedicate your life to this cause?

I don’t think I really chose to do this work, instead the work chose me. I’ve always tried to give voice to those least heard and from those voices, the wisdom they shared, SBSL was born. Our successful track record is entirely linked to the fact that everything we do, the programs we offer have all been informed by those who use our services.

How do you navigate the stigma of homelessness when working with partners and others in your life?

Stigma lives in the minds of others. Homeless people are really not that much different than the rest of us. It’s only when we focus on differences that stigma results. We choose to build on strengths and those things we all have in common as members of a human family.

Is there someone that really inspired you to start your journey as an advocate?

Not really. From an early age I was always drawn to the social injustices other faced and in my quest for understanding, became that change-maker , that one who was simply unwilling to accept those injustices as “life” for some.

If you had the world listening to you and only you for 90 seconds, what would you want to tell them?

 I would remind of the world in which we all live, a “highly vulnerable world” that as the COVID Pandemic, the current Russian/Ukrainian have shown us, can change in a moment.  We all need each other and at the end of the day, it will not be what we had or what we accomplished that will define us rather our worth will be measured by how we treat each other.

Are there policies in place that you’re working to change in your community that would benefit those that are affected by homelessness?

Yes, absolutely.  Here in Manitoba a person who cannot provide a stable address is denied health coverage.  Think about that!  We all believe that as Canadians we have access to universal health coverage. There are numerous government polices that have become the unintentional drivers of homelessness.  Heath coverage is only just one.

What is the most often overlooked item that people don’t think to donate? On the other hand, what gets donated the most?

On the other hand, what gets donated the most?  Food, clothing, blankets are amongst those items commonly donated.  Rarely donated are bandages, gauze, disinfectant and other items like tylenol, thermometers, skin cream to soothe eczema and other skin disorders.  We are working to build practical first aid kits that can be dispersed amongst those who live unsheltered.

To learn more about the #HerForShe global movement to inspire and celebrate women by Hershey International, click here!

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