The head of a Winnipeg social service agency says it’s not going anywhere despite failing to get funding to stay in the former Neechi Commons building on Main Street.

The head of a Winnipeg social service agency says it’s not going anywhere despite failing to get funding to stay in the former Neechi Commons building on Main Street.

“We don’t have much of a choice, so we’re not leaving,” executive director Angela McCaughan told the Free Press. “We have no choice. Where am I going to put (these) people? It’s -41 C out with the windchill.”

The eviction deadline for Sscope Inc., which houses 46 people and has 40 extra overnight spaces, was Jan. 6.

Sscope moved into the building at 865 Main St. in August 2020 after Assiniboine Credit Union agreed to lease the it for a year with the condition that Sscope would take it over afterward. The agency had hoped to get funding from the government, including the rapid housing initiative, but was not successful.

McCaughan said she was bound by confidentiality agreements and couldn’t say whether she had been offered another extension.

The space is filled to the brim, with 110 people getting shelter currently because of the extreme cold.

“We have to recognize that in January in Manitoba, this is what we get,” she said. “The reality is, this is people’s homes, they shouldn’t have to leave them.”

An ACU spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the status of Sscope’s lease, but said the credit union would “continue to work through the process with them to ensure the well-being of those currently using their services.”

McCaughan said Sscope applied for funding from the rapid housing initiative — a federal housing program for vulnerable people — several times, and was rejected every time.

She noted many residents are not allowed to stay in other shelters due to behavioural problems or addictions.

“We’ve already reached out to all three levels of government a long time ago, and we’ve heard nothing,” she said.

The program handed out $12.5 million to the City of Winnipeg last year, which approved five of the 33 applications it received for funding. Sscope’s $3.9-million proposal didn’t make the cut. This year, it asked for $2.7 million, and the city rejected the pitch again.

Now, McCaughan said, Sscope’s looking for $1 million from any channel that will provide it.

Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux has advocated for supporting the agency, which is in his riding of Winnipeg North. He plans to meet with Sscope again.

“We are not in a position to see a reduction in emergency bed shelters, in short-term shelters. So if we’re losing in one area, we better be picking up in another area,” he said.

Lamoureux reached out to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., the federal agency that oversees the rapid housing initiative.

“The indication that I was given… is that there was some concern surrounding the proposed project and issues, possibly of eligibility. They really couldn’t go into details because of privacy-related issues,” he said.

CMHC said it wouldn’t comment on this specific situation, but “there is significant interest in the program, however not all projects that submitted applications will be able to receive funding.”

Lamoureux said he was “optimistic” about Sscope’s future, in part because McCaughan is “determined and tenacious.”

“All programs tend to be over-subscribed, so that means you have to make decisions, and you try to make those decisions based on the programs or the projects that are brought forward, and not everyone’s going to prevail,” he said.

McCaughan is taking it one day at a time.

“I’m not abandoning them, period, I’m not. But realistically right now, there’s really nowhere suitable for us to go,” she said.

malak.abas@freepress.mb.ca

Malak Abas

Malak Abas
Reporter

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.