A recent flurry of funding is helping a downtown organization offering housing and supports to some of Winnipeg’s most vulnerable people pull itself from the precipice of peril.
On Mon., April 22, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ handed the Red Road Lodge a $39,000 grant as part of the money raised from its 2012 CEO Sleepout homelessness publicity event.
The funding comes on the heels of a recent $10,000 grant from Neighbourhoods Alive! for a series of life skills workshops, from anxiety counselling to carpentry, and a soon-to-be-announced $153,000 funding package from the province that will keep Red Road’s 45 units of supportive housing in operation.
"We are in a position right now where we have the financial stability to make plans and move forward," said Red Road general manager Beverly Roberts last week.
Located at 631 Main St., the Lodge made headlines last year after it lost some $112,000 in funding it had received for four years under the federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy.
"We might as well just close our doors," Lodge CEO Richard Walls told the Winnipeg Free Press last August. "We can’t go through the winter."
The Lodge, formerly the New Occidental Hotel, offers housing for 45 people and runs an arts and life skills resource centre for residents and community members, many of whom struggle with mental health issues and homelessness.
Roberts said the money it recently received from the Downtown BIZ will be funnelled into two streams, including its REACH community cleanup and beautification team. The funding will help boost the program’s staff from two people to 20, each of whom will receive a monthly honorarium.
By working with organizations that participated in the BIZ sleepout, Roberts hopes she can build crews to clean up areas around city hall, the theatre district, Portage and Main and beyond.
The money will also be used to build a social enterprise retail shop where members can do everything from sew garments, build birdhouses and furniture, and even grow fruits, vegetables and herbs to sell to local restaurants.
Roberts hopes it can all be used to generate income for the lodge and its members.
"It’s a program you enter into as a way of growth," said Roberts, who lives in North Point Douglas.
"You learn a little, you earn a little, you grow a little and you give a little."
All the funding is expected to help provide stability to residents and downtown community members like Larry Kowbel and Lloyd Romanick, who started working on Red Road’s REACH team last year.
Each morning from Monday to Friday, the two patrol the nooks and crannies along Main Street between Higgins and Alexander, cleaning up everything from garbage to soiled clothing to used needles. They even shovel snow for nearby businesses.
"This is a treatment centre," said Kowbel, who came to Red Road last year and has since moved into subsidized seniors housing on Elgin Avenue with the help of the organization.
"We’re showing a good example to our community. We need this funding to keep going as long as we can keep it going."
The Downtown BIZ raised $105,000 in last year’s sleepout.
The BIZ gave Siloam Mission $50,000 for its Mission: Off the Streets employment readiness program. The BIZ also gave Graffiti Art Programming $16,000 for its Youth Leaders program run out of Portage Place Mall.
For more, visit www.changeforthebetter.org.