It's not always the fault of the homeless they end up on the streets, said the United Way of Winnipeg in announcing it has set up a task force to find places for thousands of Winnipeggers to call home again.
"A report by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness estimates more than 200,000 (Canadians) experience homelessness. In response, cities from Vancouver to Edmonton and St. John's have developed 10-year plans to end homelessness. Now Winnipeggers have taken up the challenge through a new initiative spearheaded by the United Way of Winnipeg," a press release by the charity said Thursday.
Those numbers are partly the result of years of cuts in government housing and social services during times of seismic economic shifts — cuts to wages and benefits, growth of part-time work and the deindustrialization of the Canadian economy — even before the impact of the 2008 economic collapse.
The report found Canada, more than any other western nation in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, saw the widest growth in the gap between the rich and the poor.
"Between 1980 and 2005, the incomes of the top 20 per cent wealthiest Canadians increased by 16 per cent while the average earnings among the least wealthy fell by 20 per cent," the report said.
"The end result is a decline in purchasing power of low-income people; they are less and less able to pay for basic necessities such as housing, food and transportation," the report found.
Since 2008, efforts by a cross section of government, corporate and social agencies have seen a 66 per cent drop in street homelessness in Vancouver. In Edmonton, a similar effort has seen a 30 per cent reduction in overall homelessness.
The goal in Winnipeg is to adapt the successes of those cities, said United Way task force co-chairwoman Cindy Coker, executive director of the anti-poverty agency SEED Winnipeg.
Coker said by this fall the group should have hard data on the number of homeless people in Winnipeg, followed in December by a concrete plan to chip away at homelessness.
The task force has set a timeline of 10 years to achieve that goal.
The task force includes:
— Lucille Bruce: Site co-ordinator for the At Home/Chez Soi MHCC Research Project
— Steve Chipman: President and CEO of Birchwood Automotive Group
— Réal Cloutier: CEO of Winnipeg Health Authority and VP of long term care and community health services
— Joy Cramer: Chair of Manitoba Housing Renewal Corporation (MHRC), and deputy minister of housing and community development
— Jino Distasio: University of Winnipeg Institute of Urban Studies
— Debra Diubaldo: Aboriginal student advisor/ counselor and selection co-ordinator, University of Manitoba Inner City Social Work Program
— Margo Goodhand: Writer and syndicated columnist for Troy Media
— Sandy Hopkins: CEO of Habitat for Humanity Winnipeg
— Rob Johnston (co-chair): RBC regional president, Manitoba, Saskatchewan & North Western Ontario
— Floyd Perras: Executive director of Siloam Mission
— Ian Rabb: General manager of Winpark Dorchester Properties
— Michael Robertson: Managing architect, MMP Architects
— Diane Roussin: Executive director of the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre
— Phil Sheegl: City of Winnipeg chief administrative officer.
— Bramwell Strain: Assistant deputy minister for western economic diversification's Manitoba region