Families Minister Rochelle Squires announced that the Government of Manitoba is funding an initiative to help vulnerable citizens by providing $6.3 million for community-led solutions.
"Our government understands that addressing homelessness calls for a coordinated multi-faceted approach that includes community-led solutions to connect vulnerable people to the housing supports they need," says Squires. "These early steps our government is announcing today will ensure community-let organizations can continue to provide culturally-appropriate services to people in need, so they can have safe places to call home and hope for the future."
The government's strategy to respond to the homelessness crisis in Manitoba includes five key stages.
- Modernizing the emergency response
- Ensuring housing is provided with supports
- Focusing on prevention
- Improving service navigation and delivery
- recognizing the rural and northern needs
The first stage is to give new funding to community-based organizations equipped with the knowledge and resources to meet the needs of Winnipeg's homeless sectors.
In November 2021, Premier Heather Stefanson announced a $1.5 million funding to N'Dinawemak to support a warming space for 150 of Manitoba's most vulnerable citizens. Today, Squires adds to that funding with an additional $1.872 million to support their 24-hour operations with culturally-relevant programming.
To support the second pillar, the Manitoba government is investing $500,000 in the planned Homes for Heroes Veteran Village for the construction of 20 small homes that will be accompanied by on-site counselling. Also, another $855,600 is being invested in West Central Women's Resource Centre to support transitional housing services.
"Homelessness is a complex issue which requires a coordinated response across a number of municipal, provincial and federal agencies and grass-roots organizations responding to the needs on the front lines," says Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen. "Today’s funding announcement will provide culturally-appropriate supports and services to respond to these calls in a way that ensures the safety and dignity of all Manitobans. Winnipeggers deserve to feel safe where they live, work and play, and these coordinated, multi-faceted measures announced by our government today will help address these concerns."
$1 million is being funded to relaunch the Proposal Development Funding (PDF) program. It is a program that encourages the creation of new affordable and social housing projects while leveraging new federal funding program opportunities. A call for applications will be issued this summer to identify successful proponents to help facilitate new housing projects.
Squires also announced that Rent Assist benefits will be indexed to be more affordable for struggling Manitobans. With Rent Assist, low-income families have an easier time affording a house. Due to indexation, some Manitobans will receive up to a 6.5 per cent increase in their monthly benefit or up to $80 more each month.
"This increase means Manitobans can afford to stay in their homes," says Squires.
End Homelessness Winnipeg will receive $1.25 million over five years for its role in creating and delivering homelessness initiatives in Winnipeg since 2014. The non-profit organization ensures opportunities for vulnerable citizens to access housing and support and safety from extreme weather conditions.
"On behalf of End Homelessness Winnipeg, I am pleased to see these investments by the Manitoba government, supporting Indigenous-led and community-based resources to address the needs of our unsheltered relatives," says Jason Whitford, chief executive officer, End Homelessness Winnipeg. "As part of our backbone role implementing Winnipeg’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, End Homelessness Winnipeg is a partner in N’Dinawemak and supporter of Velma’s House. We look forward to further announcements, investments and collaborations to address the need for low-income, supportive and transitional housing in Winnipeg, through the province’s PDF initiative and forthcoming homelessness strategy."
The Government of Manitoba is committed to ending the homelessness crisis that the province is facing. Among the aforementioned steps taken, the government is also connecting with the Downtown Community Safety Partnership (DCSP) and the Bear Clan patrols, who recently received $200,000 funding from the government, to benefit public safety.
A chance to reconnect
Ed Bird, also known as Rolling Thunder through his spiritual name, now calls N'Dinawemak his home and has found himself working the night shift at the shelter.
Before finding himself at N'Dinawemak, Bird was living in a rooming house. He described it as affordable but "more of a party house than anything." After discovering he had friends at N'Dinawemak, he followed them and found the help that he was looking for.
"The circumstances that led me here are becoming a common theme. The lack of affordable housing in the city is bringing people to rely on shelters such as this one, it's an unfortunate reality. Rooming houses and poorly maintained hotels are often the only options for many. N'Dinawemak has many staff who have helped me in different ways, I have the opportunity to go to cultural events."
Bird also mentioned that the culturally-appropriate resources have helped him reconnect with his cultural heritage.
"Although I don't speak my native language, I'm reaching out to those who do speak for lessons. What I notice more is harm reduction. That need is great with not just solving abuse, amongst our brothers and sisters, but the growing problem with meth and other harsher drugs."
Bird recently received flood money from his reserve and is hoping to apply for an affordable apartment in the near future.