Province increases funding for homeless shelters, rent assistance
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Chronically underfunded homeless shelters received a “historic” boost to their bottom line, as the provincial government pledged more funding for rental supports and housing programs.
On Monday, Premier Heather Stefanson said annual funding for emergency shelters, transitional housing providers and outreach mentors will increase to $15.1 million from $6.1 million. She said the money would be given to them immediately.
Stefanson made the announcement at Siloam Mission in downtown Winnipeg.
“It’s important that we support our shelter system,” Stefanson said. “We understand people should not be living on the street. A bus shelter is not an acceptable place to live. I’m confident that these initiatives will have a strong positive impact on individuals, their families, and our community as a whole.”
Main Street Project executive director Jamil Mahmood described the funding increase as historic. The additional funding, which will support shelter operations, transitional housing programs and outreach, will stabilize operations and put more staff on the front lines to quickly house people.
The number of beds available at Main Street Project will not change.
“It’s really hard to put into words the impact this is going to have on our front-line services,” Mahmood said. “We know that shelters are not the solution to homelessness, but they’re a step to keep people off the streets and safe.”
Families Minister Rochelle Squires said community organizations that support the homeless are struggling to keep up with rising costs, and that strain is reducing their ability to offer programs. Government funding of shelters had not increased since 2009.
“We’re on the cusp of winter and we really wanted to make sure that all of our partners in providing those immediate needs to those most at risk were well-equipped to handle the upcoming season ahead,” she said.
Of the additional $9 million, $3.3 million will be dedicated to emergency shelter services and the balance will support transitional housing programs. An additional $890,000 will go towards outreach housing mentors and $1.7 million is being provided to N’Dinawemak, a 24-7 shelter space at 190 Disraeli Fwy.
“By having the ability to, in our case, ensure that we have those homeless outreach mentors in place to support people to move out of shelter, it will mean that the beds become available faster,” Siloam Mission chief executive officer Tessa Blaikie-Whitecloud said.
“The speed with which you rehouse somebody when they first enter the shelter becomes very significant and this funding is going to support us via those homeless outreach mentors to do that better.”
Squires said the government will spend $21 million more annually to increase rent assist for employment and income assistance recipients. In January, Rent Assist will increase from 75 to 77 per cent of median market rents, or between $34 and $70 per person. Earlier this year, the province increased monthly EIA rates by $50 for adults.
The province will issue a request for proposals, valued at $2 million, for organizations to offer employment training and support to people who leave the justice system and are at risk of being homeless.
A comprehensive, provincial homelessness strategy will be released soon, Squires said. In March, the government released a report based on consultations with more than 300 people who work in the sector and more than seven dozen people who have been without a home.
Inadequate financial support was identified as an issue, particularly related to individual income and rent assistance, shelter and outreach services, and non-profit operating grants.
Organizations across the province emphasized the need for new and improved social housing units and a major expansion of housing to meet demand, the report said.
Squires agreed housing supply is a crucial component to addressing homelessness.
“We’re going to continue to press forward in creating net new units of social and affordable housing. That will be part of our broader strategy,” she said.
Make Poverty History Manitoba spokesperson Desiree McIvor said the province desperately needs to deliver social housing to those most in need.
“It’s a Band-Aid solution. It’s not sustainable,” McIvor said of the province’s announcement. “Sure, it helps the organizations to get people the resources and support they need. But people need housing. That’s the bottom line.
“It’s a slap in the face,” McIvor said.
Kelly Holmes, executive director of Resource Assistance for Youth, said the additional funding will strengthen the safety net for youth, many of whom come from child and family services. The next urgent need for the government to address is mental health and addictions.
“We need mental health supports, we need addiction supports and we need harm-reduction supports,” Holmes said. “We need the whole gamut: a pathway to help people out of homelessness established along with housing.”
Stefanson said her government will make additional announcements on addictions, gang-related violence and crime this week.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.
Updated on Tuesday, November 1, 2022 9:01 PM CDT: Adds related posts.