Mark Kelm, Senior Chaplin at Union Gospel Mission (UGM), is at the forefront of Winnipeg's crystal meth crisis on a daily basis.
Kelm, who has been with UGM for 6 years, says, "In the last two years, what I have been seeing more and more is, people are coming to the mission who are in the meth psychosis phase. They come here and they're paranoid."
UGM is in the heart of Winnipeg's downtown, on Princess Street. Daily they are serving those who live on the street with food and chapel services, but recently the mission has been responding to a greater need as the meth epidemic grows in the city. They also run a second program, a recovery program that focuses on "recovery through Christ", for men suffering from all types of addictions: alcohol, pornography, and drugs.
Kelm tells multiple stories of people coming into the mission off the street completely paranoid. Instances where they believed they were being followed by gangs of men or that Kelm is trying to hurt them when he actually offers them help are common.
It is during the day that most people addicted to crystal meth feel its worse effects. Kelm explains, "The high can last for 12 hours. A lot of them will take it just before sundown so they can be up all night. They feel safer staying up all night, as opposed to sleeping at night when stuff can happen to them while they're on the street." The struggle to survive a night on the streets perpetuates an already aggressive addiction.
As those coming down from their meth high come into UGM, they could potentially bring in a lot of chaos and tension. Kelm explains that they choose to respond in a different way: "I find the best way to respond is staying calm, showing them Christ-like love, and doing what you can for them. We've had a couple of guys that we have helped in that way and, as a result, they remember and they come into the program here."
UGM has several success stories of men that have come in after detox, learned more about God's love, and have found true healing. "We're hoping that they'll be able to see that real peace, real hope, real fullness of joy in your life is only found in a relationship to Christ and surrendering to Him and following Him. Jesus is the Creator of our souls, so only he can touch the wounds deeps down in our souls and bring the healing that is needed. That's what we try to do here," says Kelm.
"Everybody in this city has to come together to work on this."
Kelm sees the potential for healing in Winnipeg. Kelm says, "I see other missions and recovery programs working together more and more. It has become so overwhelming that you cannot do this by yourself, so we are reaching out to one another more to do what we can to get help to these people."
He encourages churches to get involved too and work alongside organizations like UGM because "There is always hope in Christ. He can overcome anything and he can overcome this."
Kelm also asks for prayer. "Pray for us. Pray for all the recovery programs, the churches, the police, fire departments, the hospitals - everyone is getting inundated with this crisis. There is more power in prayer than we know."