Klein promises fresh approach on city’s social issues if he becomes mayor

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A new partnership between St. Boniface Street Links and the Old St. Vital Business Improvement Zone will connect people in recovery with seasonal work and may one day become a pipeline for full-time employment with the City of Winnipeg.

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A new partnership between St. Boniface Street Links and the Old St. Vital Business Improvement Zone will connect people in recovery with seasonal work and may one day become a pipeline for full-time employment with the City of Winnipeg.

Old St. Vital BIZ president Nancy Cooke conceived the project after enlisting the help of Street Links’ outreach teams to tackle property crime and homelessness in the St. Vital neighbourhood.

“We needed workers this fall to help us with our fall clean-up, and (Street Links) had participants who were looking for the opportunity to gain employment experience in order to be able to move forward in their journey of recovery,” Cooke said.

Growing demand forces Winnipeg police officers to rush from call to call, and blamed the issue for causing excessive wait times, says the former Winnipeg Police Board chairman. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

This year, two men living in Morberg House, a transitional residence supported by Street Links, are participating in the program, which Cooke calls Recovery Works.

The men will begin working Friday and remain employed until mid-November. Their daily tasks will involve landscaping, maintaining and cleaning St. Vital streets, Cooke said.

For their labour, the BIZ will pay them an hourly wage slightly higher than the current provincial minimum of $11.95, which will increase to $13.50 on Oct. 1.

The BIZ typically hires a student workforce over the summer but is left short-staffed near the end of the season when people return to school. This program will help fill that gap, Cooke said.

“Any kind of an opportunity to enter the workforce and build a current employment history is something we really embrace,” said Marion Willis, Street Links’ founder and executive director. “We’re looking to create a path forward where we can break all the cycles of dependency and help people actually be able to sustain a healthy life.”

Willis and Cooke announced the program Thursday morning during a press event at Guay Park in St. Vital.

Mayoral candidate Kevin Klein, who attended the announcement, voiced support for the program and shared his plan to confront homelessness, addiction, violence and crime in Winnipeg.

The way the city currently addresses social problems is siloed, expensive and ineffective, he said, adding if elected, he’ll form a working group with city councillors, community members and organizational leaders to make social initiatives more organized and measurable.

“I want to find who’s best in what area and how we can work together. And to ensure those that are getting results… are properly funded,” Klein said. “The solutions are many, but the answers are simple: sitting at the table with the stakeholders.”

His plan to unite Winnipeg’s social services — many of which have competing ideas on addressing social issues —may not be easy, but it is necessary, he said.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“Any kind of an opportunity to enter the workforce and build a current employment history is something we really embrace,” said Marion Willis, Street Links’ founder and executive director.

Klein also promised to expand Recovery Works and similar employment programs. Successful participants could be eligible for financial support to get their GEDs and could eventually seek full-time, permanent employment with the city, he said.

Willis said she supports Klein’s idea of a collaborative approach to social issues but stressed she had not yet settled on her choice for mayor.

“I am not endorsing anybody at this point,” she said. “I have not entered a room more dysfunctional than city hall…. What we’re facing in this city, with the number of homicides, the number of people dying of fentanyl deaths, the property crimes…. The city has kind of hit an all-time low.”

The candidate who understands that a city’s economic wealth is contingent on its social health is the one who will earn her vote.

“We have a city that is suffering, and I want to spend time fixing (that),” Klein said, adding that while he often gets “beat up” for being business-oriented, he sees investing in social issues as equivalent to investing in Winnipeg’s economy.

“The only endorsement I need is for people to go out and vote,” he said.

tyler.searle@freepress.mb.ca

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