City sets up temporary shelter after death in bus shack
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
THE City of Winnipeg joined the effort to quickly set up a temporary emergency warming shelter on Tuesday, after the temperature plummeted as low as -30 C overnight.
City staff and elected officials worked with St. Boniface Street Links to open the site a few hours after the group identified folks in urgent need of a place to warm up, and just one day after the death of a vulnerable Winnipegger in a St. Boniface bus shelter, said Mayor Scott Gillingham.
Gillingham shared condolences for the loved ones of a person found unresponsive under a pile of blankets in a heated bus shelter at Goulet Street and Tache Avenue on Monday afternoon. The mayor’s office said the person was confirmed to have died.
Gillingham said the rush to create an impromptu shelter at a city-owned building in St. Boniface took place over about six hours on Tuesday, with the goal of preventing another person from dying.
“These are the very tragedies that we want to avoid. This is what we’re trying to make sure doesn’t happen,” he said.
The mayor said fire paramedic officials checked out the vacant building to ensure it was safe and he hopes the city can quickly offer safe, warm spaces for vulnerable people again, as needed.
“We are working to provide at least temporary shelters so that people can get in out of the cold so they don’t have to endure the temperatures that we had (Tuesday) night… Part of what I campaigned on is… to (ensure the city can) act quicker in an emergency situation,” he said.
Gillingham’s office said roughly a dozen people used the space Tuesday night. Officials noted it is not meant to provide walk-up service. Instead, it provided Street Links with a place to help people in need, who were located through its mobile outreach program.
Marion Willis, Street Links’ executive director, said she was impressed by the city’s quick response.
“The very rapid and appropriate response to our plea for help (shows it) certainly did not fall on deaf ears… The city responded immediately to… ensure that St. Boniface Street Links would have some kind of a pop-up shelter during this extreme weather event to assist people over here,” said Willis.
She said the group won’t promote the address of the shelter space, since it is temporary and not equipped to serve people who could arrive on their own. Those who used it Tuesday night were given food and water.
Willis said she believes those working to help unsheltered Winnipeggers, including governments, must focus on addiction as a primary reason why people are homeless, and provide supports tailored to address it.
Willis said the city needs more permanent facilities to assist homeless Winnipeggers in the area her organization serves.
“We need to work together to build (something) to expand on our services and create the infrastructure over here. So that… people over here struggling with homelessness no longer have to rely on transit shelters and ATM vestibules, (stay) in encampments and, and so on, to survive our winters,” she said.
Street Links was expected to run the temporary warming space Wednesday night, but close it Thursday, when the temperature warms up.
— with files from Shauna Turnley
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
Updated on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 6:49 PM CST: Adds photo of Marion Willis.