Finding a solution to Winnipeg's homeless problem is going to need input and financial support from various stakeholders, but is ultimately the province's responsibility, the mayor told a group working to get people off the street.
End Homelessness Winnipeg appeared before executive policy committee Tuesday to brief Mayor Brian Bowman and key members of city council on the umbrella organization's five-year plan and to reinforce a September request for $820,000 in multi-year operational funding.
Executive director Lucille Bruce provided the organization’s strategy to house 1,519 people currently in need and to build more than 1,300 new units by March 31, 2025. It also hopes to stem the flow of people leaving the corrections, health-care and child-welfare systems into homelessness.
"We are just ramping up; we have key critical priorities that we’re going to move forward in the next five years," Bruce said. "We ask you to continue providing us with funding at this critical time. This is one of the best investments you can make for the future of Winnipeg."
The group is working towards long-term solutions to end chronic homelessness by 2025. It also leads emergency response services and is the interim community representative for the federal government's Reaching Home program, administering $9.3-million in funding for programs and services last year.
Bowman acknowledged the homelessness problem and the organization's work, but wanted to know to what extent it has been engaged with the province.
"We have key critical priorities that we’re going to move forward in the next five years." – End Homelessness Winnipeg executive director Lucille Bruce
"Health and housing are matters of provincial jurisdiction," he said. "If we want to be the most improved province in Canada, let's start with by looking after our most vulnerable and focusing our attention as a province on the health and homelessness needs in our community.
"There’s a lot of work that has to happen by all levels of government, and by the private sector and not for profit. We need to get better results. There are far too many people homeless in our community and communities throughout our country."
Bowman asked what dialogue, if any, End Homelessness Winnipeg has had with the province about its plans, and whether financial support from the province is sufficient to end homelessness in the next five years.
Bruce said she recently met with Families Minister Heather Stefanson but has not requested meetings with Minister of Indigenous and Northern Relations Eileen Clarke, Health Minister Cameron Friesen or Premier Brian Pallister. Manitoba Housing is represented on End Homelessness Winnipeg's board, she added.
"Is it enough? Probably not, but it allows us to move forward on the plan that we've proposed for the next five years," she said. "We have been looking at a financial structure for building housing, currently, that will give us an idea of what is necessary to move forward on building housing for this population."
She said Manitoba's approach to social housing is also undergoing a transformation. The Families Department last week released its plan to transition from a housing provider to a funder and regulator.
“Health and housing are matters of provincial jurisdiction. If we want to be the most improved province in Canada, let's start with by looking after our most vulnerable and focusing our attention as a province on the health and homelessness needs in our community." – Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman
The provincial report, entitled Shared Priorities Sustainable Progress, said Manitoba Housing will continue to devolve housing management to the non-profit and municipal sectors and upgrade and sell assets, in some cases.
In 2014, the city provided End Homelessness Winnipeg with core funding of $750,000 over five years; that agreement expired at the end of 2019.
The new funding, if approved during the city’s multi-year budgeting process, would support operations, Bruce said, adding the province has also committed $750,000 over three years. The organization also receives funding from United Way Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
Danielle Da Silva