A plan to end homelessness in Winnipeg was released this week by Winnipeg’s Task Force to End Homelessness.
The Task Force, convened by United Way and Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council, consulted with many Winnipeggers who have a stake in ending homelessness: from a Council of Elders to the non-profit service providers who work daily to meet the needs of people on the street; from government policymakers to the private sector. This collection of voices shaped the plan into a shared vision of what’s possible.
The Plan’s boldest element is the notion of a new non-profit organization to provide leadership, coordination, and centralized funding, whose sole focus is ending homelessness in Winnipeg.
The goal is to create a streamlined process that fasttracks homeless individuals into housing, similar to the emerging best practice of Housing First.
The Task Force’s message is clear: as a community, there needs to be a shift from managing homelessness to ending it.
Presently, some of the most chronically homeless people in our city are being housed in emergency beds, in hospital waiting rooms, in ambulances, in jails and detention centres. The reality is that this is some of the most expensive and inappropriate housing around.
1. Prevent homelessness, by creating accessible pathways to permanent housing for people who are leaving hospitals, institutions and Children’s Service Authorities. Create a “one-stop” resource and centralized intake targeted to the needs of people at risk of homelessness, so they can easily access all available information, help and money.
2. Create a person-centred system of care. Most people will end their homelessness on their own or with the services currently available. But for some, mental illness, long-term substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and developmental disabilities make it difficult for them to end their homelessness with the support currently available. They need an actual system of care created, focused specifically on ending homelessness through “Housing With Supports” programs.
3. Increase the supply and availability of housing to combat Winnipeg’s low vacancy rate, including the ultimate creation of 7500 affordable housing units.
4. Measure what we do, so we can be sure it’s making life better in Winnipeg. Conduct an annual census of homeless people, and make the data easy to share.
The Task Force has tried to ensure that the voices of those who are, or who have been homeless, are paramount, by including the opinions and advice of those most affected by this issue.
A video produced by the Task Force featuring the experience of Fred Knoedler, someone who has been homeless in Winnipeg, can be viewed here:
This week’s statement by the Task Force reads, “We believe we can end homelessness in Winnipeg, improve the quality of people’s lives, reduce the burden on emergency services, and address one of the roots causes of chronic poverty in our community.”
The statement also encourages all citizens “to read the plan, dream big about what we can all accomplish together, and to contact us if you’d like to get involved in making homelessness history.”
Siloam Mission will be holding a Breakfast Briefing at the Winnipeg Convention Centre on Tuesday morning, May 6. CTV Morning Live will cover the event with live reporting from the Convention Centre.
A panel of guests will be convened to address the steps that are being taken toward creating new housing for those experiencing homelessness. Discussion will focus on plans in the community to tackle homelessness and address Winnipeg’s affordable housing crisis.