Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Beyond Band-Aids

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A client smoles outside the Main Street Project.

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A client smoles outside the Main Street Project. Photo Store

Randy Turner's insightful article on the tragic death of Douglas Sanderson and Judge Schille's recommendation for expanding services at the Main Street Project only addresses the tip of the iceberg (Shelter needs more paramedics, space: inquest, June 9).

I have spent the last 10 years working with homeless individuals on Main Street, a block away from the Martha Street Main Street Project. I can firmly attest that much more needs to be done on this front.

Steps have been taken by private-sector initiatives such as the Red Road Lodge, which provides safe, dry housing and public-sector initiatives like the Bell Hotel that is more focused on a harm-reduction model. While both models offer benefits and move in the right direction, there is a huge gap between safe housing and emergency shelters.

Expanding the Main Street Project is only a band-aid solution if it is not done with a master plan to address the larger picture of homelessness and substance abuse. I don't subscribe to the NIMBY principle, but given the ongoing efforts of myself and the business community, CentreVenture as well as the aboriginal and Métis communities, one must ask: is the Martha Street location doing more harm than good to our urban-renewal efforts?

If the location is acceptable, should the Main Street Project not be expanded and funded to provide more beds with a higher level of care, complemented by a well-designed exterior green space with public washrooms and seating, similar to that which is often available at other health-care facilities?

For far too long the city and province have turned their eyes away from this public embarrassment. Is Winnipeg bold enough to do the right thing?

RICHARD WALLS

CEO Red Road Lodge

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 12, 2014 A14

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