Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg MB - The Manitoba Government needs to step up immediately and change the way it handles homelessness, not just for the next brutal week of freezing weather, but to permanently ensure that homeless people have a place to live, say Manitoba Liberals.
The report details the failures of successive NDP and PC governments to address poverty and housing in Winnipeg.
For decades, the Government of Manitoba have created a permanent crisis by investing in permanent shelters instead of making sure that Manitobans have a roof over their head 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"Homeless people are huddling for warmth in bus shelters because under the PCs and NDP alike, there is nowhere else for them to go," said Dougald Lamont, MLA St. Boniface and Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party. "The NDP and PCs funded mats on floors. Chronic problems need permanent solutions. This plan ends homelessness in Winnipeg."
The 10-point plan adds to recommendations made by the Manitoba Liberals in late December, when they called for Emergency Pandemic action to protect people who are homeless. More than 1500 people in Manitoba are experiencing homelessness. Our bus shelters, particularly but not exclusively downtown, have become "homes" for those who are homeless.
"In the immediate term - we mean the next few days, we are calling for warming centres to be opened, free masks in bus shelters, and a central command centre that can coordinate mobile units to get people who are homeless someplace warm," said Gerrard. "The next step - we need rapid access to social assistance and especially getting permanent housing in apartments and hotels, to put people on a lifelong path of security."
Liberals say it is important to shift support for homeless people away from police or transit, and towards health care and mobile support units from existing organizations.
The Federal Government has set up a major fund to assist with the purchases of hotels for rapid housing in Covid-19. Manitoba Liberals say if the province won't act, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Manitoba Metis Federation should receive the money to purchase hotels and get the process started.
A large number of studies have shown it is cheaper to house those who are homeless than to leave them living on the street. Daily costs for hospital can be $1,000 a day, Canadian Federal prison is $315/day, Provincial prison is $166/day and adequate housing: $40/ day.
The report makes ten recommendations, based on the simple premise that people who are homeless, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, as all Manitobans do.
The report restates four recommendations from the December report, and adds six more:
1) Open several community centres and other city buildings as warming shelters.
2) Prompt access to EIA within 48 hours
3) Prompt access to seamless addictions treatment.
4) Create and maintain a single web-based dashboard of resources for those who are homeless
5) Signage and maps provided in bus shelters listing places available to stay warm.
6) Provide free masks in bus shelters.
7) Organize a city-wide coordinated approach to supporting and contacting mobile help units.
8) Use a fast-track approach to put people in an apartment or a hotel room.
9) Use Indigenous cultural approaches to welcome people in from the cold.
10) Help people all the way to a positive and sustainable life path.
"People living in poverty are often blamed or shamed for it, when the rest of us should recognize that we could be a few paychecks or a crisis away from being in the same place," said Lamont. "Poverty and homelessness is not a choice: it's the rest of us choosing whether to shut people out, or let them in. We have the resources to ensure that everyone can stay warm and have a roof over their head, every day of the year."
View the full report here.