Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Siloam on mission to end homelessness

Agency announces $30.5-M plan to construct 160 housing units

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Siloam Mission is doing its part to put an end to homelessness in Winnipeg.

The humanitarian organization announced plans Tuesday to build 160 housing units for homeless people on newly acquired property on its campus at 300 Princess St.

One building will be torn down to make way for an eight-storey housing complex and another building will be renovated to house essential services for the residents.

The entire development is forecast to open in 2016 at a cost of $30.5 million.

'People need people to do well in their lives. If you have a half-decent family support,

it's amazing what can happen'

-- Floyd Perras, executive director, Siloam Mission

Floyd Perras, Siloam Mission's executive director, said he's hoping to hear back from the provincial and municipal governments this summer about funding and then will embark on his own fundraising campaign to raise between $12 million and $15 million.

"If people are looking to get off the streets and are willing to be case-managed and work on some level of recovery, for addictions, mental illness, trauma, a lack of education or employment, they would meet the criteria to get in there," said Perras.

This isn't Siloam Mission's first foray into housing. It has been operating 85 units in Wolseley for the past two years and has a lengthy waiting list at the building called The Madison.

"People need a place to live now," said Perras.

The bachelor units will put a significant dent in the city's homelessness problem but Perras figures another 500 to 1,000 are needed.

"You've got to start somewhere. I've got to get this one built before I get another one going," he said.

Ending homelessness is about much more than putting roofs over people's heads. Perras said mental illness is a major contributor in pushing people out onto the streets.

"Residential schools have caused unbelievable destruction to the family units of the aboriginal population. So many kids end up in foster care. We have a disproportionate amount of aboriginal people (at Siloam), about 60 to 70 per cent," said Perras.

"People need people to do well in their lives. If you have a half-decent family support, it's amazing what can happen. With fetal alcohol syndrome, they don't even have a chance from the time they're babies."

Foster care and other systemic issues put up significant roadblocks to ending homelessness, too, he said.

"A lot of things would have to change upstream. By the time they're homeless, they're sometimes at greatly reduced capacity," said Perras.

About 300 people attended a breakfast event announcing the housing project at the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg on Tuesday.

When Siloam Mission announced its Vision 500 initiative last year, it called for the creation of 500 homes and 500 jobs.

"We're halfway there (on homes)," he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 7, 2014 A6

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