According to Siloam, the outreach worker says it has the needed capacity, but several reasons keep people from using their shelters.
As city crew and front loaders move into downtown Winnipeg bus shelters, those residing in shacks are leaving.
A few hours later, they have no option but to come back, as they put up the protective tarps and they ensure the doors are sealed off to make the shelter more or less a makeshift home.
This was precisely the scene that played out on Wednesday. This comes a day after someone died from an explosion that led to a raging fire at a camp for homeless people. However, this is now a regular sight you can find at bus shelters located at the University of Winnipeg and several other places scattered around the city.
Siloam Mission’s communications manager, Luke Thiessen said,
“Looking at this tragedy, it really underscores the need for the biggest thing is housing.”
For the first time in a long time, the Siloam shelter is not full, and there’s no lengthy wait-list to acquire a bed. This is in spite of a reduced capacity caused by COVID-19 restrictions.
Les people are making use of the shelter each night due to the new COVID-19 isolation units opened by the province homeless Winnipeg residents.
Even though there are available shelter beds, people chose to pass the night in bus shelters and homeless camps for several reasons, as the temperature drops to astonishingly low levels.
West Central Women’s Resource Centre outreach co-ordinator Janis Ducharme said,
“I’m seeing a lot of people fighting the cold, fighting to survive. A lot of people getting torn away from the bus shacks.”
She discloses that she checks on 55 persons that live outside in the cold every day. A primary requirement for them is to stay sober, which is another reason most homeless people don’t use their shelters.
“A lot of people are banned from these warming spaces. A lot of people have … no way to get down there. Women that I come across just don’t feel safe going there. They don’t feel safe around the shelters.”
On Wednesday, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives publicized a report which says a city of Winnipeg’s size should have a minimum of seven full-time staff committed to making affordable housing.
According to Stefan Hodges, the researcher that wrote the report, he said
“Unfortunately, the City of Winnipeg is behind, which is going to just make this a bigger task in the future. So we need to step up right away.”
He further went on to say that Winnipeg has only one staff that is committed to affordable housing. Unfortunately, it is the only Canadian city that does not have a strategy for affordable housing.
Brian Bowman, the mayor of Winnipeg, told reporters that he wrote to Manitoba’s premier last week. He said he requested an urgent meeting that aims to address all issues plaguing the vulnerable population of the city, especially for the homeless.