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Front-line city workers are getting more formal help from non-profit agencies to accommodate vulnerable people on Winnipeg streets, which officials hope will alleviate stress on paramedics, firefighters and police.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/03/2018 (1776 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Front-line city workers are getting more formal help from non-profit agencies to accommodate vulnerable people on Winnipeg streets, which officials hope will alleviate stress on paramedics, firefighters and police.

A new voluntary transport protocol introduced at city hall Tuesday is making “common-sense improvements” to share resources between the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, Main Street Project and Salvation Army, Mayor Brian Bowman announced.

Emergency crews will have an exclusive number to call to reach social service agencies, such as Main Street Project, who have outreach vans of their own.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman holds press conference at City Hall announcing new Voluntary Transport vehicles to Drop-In Shelters to improve safety for at-risk people Tuesday.

If a person they meet on the street needs shelter or clothes, for example, and wants a ride, but isn’t in medical distress or doesn’t require police attention, then crews can call the non-profits. Those groups will set out in their vans to pick up the person in need within 10 minutes.

Rick Lees, executive director of the Main Street Project, summed up the operation succintly.

“We’re almost the 911 of the 911,” he said.

“This really is the result of collaborative discussion that’s been happening for some time,” said the mayor. “There’s rising costs for policing, there’s rising costs for Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service. We continue to increase those budgets each and every year. But how do we ensure that we’re using the right resources at the right time? And that’s really what this is all about. That level of collaboration hasn’t happened between these organizations in this way ever before.”

Helen Clark, provincial lead for emergency response services with Shared Health, said the new protocol has three main benefits.

“It frees up (WFPS) units to get back into service. It doesn’t tie up police units, because if someone is willing to go voluntarily then they don’t necessarily have to call police. And it also prevents a trip to the emergency department,” Clark said.

“And it meets the needs of the client, which is the ultimate (goal),” added Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service Deputy Chief Christian Schmidt.

While the new service may help front-line workers, it demands more of those social service agencies without providing them further financial resources.

Lees said Main Street Project currently has federal funding to cover its van operations for evening shifts. But they don’t have the money or manpower to have their van running all day long.

“We need lots more money to maintain it 24/7. We’re doing it out of our own pocket right now, so it’s a deficit. The only funding we have is to have it out on patrol overnight (from around 8 p.m until 8 a.m.),” Lees said.

Bowman didn’t pledge new cash to cover the voluntary transport protocol.

The mayor pointed to council’s previous funding commitments for End Homelessness Winnipeg and the CHAT (Community Homeless Assistance Team) program run by the Downtown BIZ as proof they’re doing their part. Bowman also donated $20,000 from his Civic Initiatives Fund to create temporary warming centres for youth, women and LGBTQ* people in February.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to ever argue that there are enough (resources),” Bowman said.

The transport protocol has been in training mode since Jan. 24. So far, it’s picked up 22 people voluntarily from city streets.

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu

 

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Updated on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 6:07 PM CDT: updates photo

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