The future of an outreach program to reduce public drunkenness is in jeopardy and downtown advocates want city officials to help keep it afloat.

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This article was published 10/3/2011 (3919 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The future of an outreach program to reduce public drunkenness is in jeopardy and downtown advocates want city officials to help keep it afloat.

Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown BIZ, said the Outreach Patrol program could be forced to pull staff off the streets by the end of summer if they can’t find additional funding. The pilot project launched three years ago, and now employs 10 people who rotate through three shifts a day, six days a week to get drunk people off the street. Patrol teams pick up 3,000 people a year and take people who are passed out or aggressively panhandling to their home or safe places such as the Main Street Project.

Grande will appear before council’s protection and community services committee Friday morning to ask for $100,000.

"They free up the fire paramedics," Grande said, noting patrols have found intoxicated people walking into traffic or passed out on the street. "They now have a smaller queue (so they can) deal with more urgent matters."

In the past, the program’s cost have been paid for by the province, the BIZ, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Main Street Project. Grande said the program covered last year’s costs with a one-time grant from WRHA, but will be left scrambling for alternate funding if the city denies their request.

He said the program has improved the area’s safety, and in turn, encouraged more investment. Grande said it makes sense for the city to chip in, since it saves them money in the long run.

"It’ll be in limbo," he said of the program.