Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Housing first

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The closure of the beverage room in the St. Regis Hotel last January has apparently led to a dramatic reduction in calls for emergency services to the downtown establishment, which had been a popular hangout for the homeless and destitute.

It's unlikely, however, that closing the bar had any impact on the number of homeless people in the city's core or on the total number of calls for service they generate. They merely moved to other locations where they feel welcome or safe.

Hotel closures are one way to clean up a small area, but they are not a real solution to the problem of homelessness.

Fortunately, the federal budget Thursday has renewed the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, which has operated as a pilot project in several cities, including Winnipeg, for the past three years.

The program says homeless people can't overcome their addictions and mental health issues if they don't have a place to live and sleep. It focuses on providing them heavily subsidized or even free housing while ensuring they receive medical and social services.

"Housing first" has a proven track record, and it's well worth the $1.2 billion that will be spent on it over five years across Canada.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Gerald Flood, Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2013 A14

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