In Winnipeg, homeless woman returns $700 phone, inspires pay-it-forward movement

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News

Last week in Winnipeg, Ashley Meilleur handed her lunch bag to a homeless woman panhandling on the side of the road.

Meilleur had been stopped at a traffic light when she noticed a homeless woman holding a sign: "I am hungry, anything will help."

"I offered her the rest of my lunch, a cheese string, muffin and a can of coke," Meilleur wrote on Facebook. "The light was turning green so I quickly handed her my whole lunch bag as to not miss out on the opportunity."

Meilleur didn't realize that her $700 phone was inside her bagged lunch.

Twenty minutes later, Meilleur received a phone call from her mother in Ontario. The homeless woman had found the phone and called Meilleur's mother to try to reunite the phone with its owner.

Meilleur called her phone and arranged to meet the woman. When they did, Meilleur hugged and thanked the kind stranger.

"She actually said that she felt bad because it was a long distance number, that she was using my minutes," Meilleur told CTV News.

"She did not ask for money for it, but simply returned it. I gave her what I had in my wallet, $15 and I sat with her in my car," Meilleur wrote on Facebook." I asked her her story and as she told me, my heart broke. A beautiful, lost young lady who took one wrong turn and had nothing, but insisted I, a random stranger, get my phone back and took the time to call my mother in Ontario to alert her. She has changed my perspective and has restored my faith in the human race."

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Meilleur now intends to pay it forward, and bless the woman who returned her phone.

She bought her a phone with a two-year contract so the two new friends can stay in touch. Meilleur also hopes to help the woman find a job.

Meilleur wrote: "I am going to do everything in my power to ensure she is safe and has a warm meal this Christmas."

Meilleur also launched The Lending Hand Winnipeg group on Facebook, intent on helping other homeless people in her city during the upcoming holiday season.

"I am setting up a pilot project for Christmas. We have numerous homeless individuals and families living on our community streets, in dire need of help this holiday season. I am looking for random acts of kindness. I would like to give back this holiday season," she wrote, adding that she's collecting unopened gifts and gently used warm clothing and sleeping bags.

"My goal is to wrap these gifts and hand them out to people in need as I strongly believe everyone should have the opportunity to open a gift on Christmas morning."