The provincial government has stepped in to help the Bear Clan continue its patrols on the streets of Winnipeg's North End.

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This article was published 8/11/2018 (1295 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The provincial government has stepped in to help the Bear Clan continue its patrols on the streets of Winnipeg's North End.

The government announced Thursday it will provide $200,000 for Bear Clan’s supplies and administrative needs, some of which will be administered through the Winnipeg Police Service.

Premier Brian Pallister told reporters the provincial funding was due, "in part," to the uncertainty over future federal contributions to the organization.

"The Bear Clan does some great work," he said. "We wanted to demonstrate our support for the work they’re doing."

Pallister also encouraged Manitobans to support crowd-sourced funding that benefits the group. He said his family plans to make a contribution.

The Bear Clan is an unarmed group of volunteers who patrol the North End several evenings a week. Highly visible in fluorescent vests, they offer practical support to homeless people, sex workers and people struggling with addictions.

The news of the province's contribution came a day after the Free Press revealed that Bear Clan might lay off some staff in February, as they waited to hear whether Ottawa would extend more cash for administrative expenses.

Last fiscal year, the federal Liberals gave Bear Clan $100,000 through the Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples (UPIP) fund, which Ottawa has effectively frozen after an overwhelming number of applications.

The huge demand for UPIP, and the uncertainty caused by freezing that funding, highlights how Ottawa is grappling to provide funding and services to Indigenous people as they increasingly migrate to cities like Winnipeg.

In the 2016 census, 51.8 per cent of people self-identifying as Indigenous reported living in urban areas.

"There has to be some reallocation, or additional resources," said Damon Johnston, president of the Winnipeg Aboriginal Council.

Ottawa is used to funding band councils on reserves, as well as some Métis and Inuit governments. But it doesn’t have the same legal agreements with charities and organizations.

Johnston says there are many Indigenous-related groups in Winnipeg that don’t fit into the funding structures Ottawa and the province use to administer programs for Indigenous people.

Thunderbird House, for example, faces a huge demand in the city, but declared itself in crisis this summer after a series of short-term funding programs wrapped up.

"We need improved resources — an improved relationship — so that we can address these things in a better way," Johnston said.

In September, he helped found the Winnipeg Indigenous Executive Circle, so these groups can work together to find funding and collaborate in the programs they offer.

On behalf of that group, Johnston took part in a Toronto meeting Oct. 24 to 25, held by the federal department's Indigenous Services Canada. ISC is looking to craft a strategy with these groups on how the federal government can support Indigenous groups.

For now, UPIP has been maxed out, because 500 groups applied for funding from a grant that was meant for around a hundred groups.

"There is such fantastic work being done out there by so many organizations [that] it’s challenging to be able to support all of them," ISC Minister Jane Philpott told the Free Press on Thursday.

ISC may turn groups to existing, untapped federal funding programs in other departments. Philpott said her staff might also liaise with the provinces and foundations about what funding they can put up.

"Historically, the federal government hasn’t always played a strong role in terms of supporting programs and services in urban settings, off reserve. This is an area that we are continually hearing about, and are looking for ways that we can provide more support."

UPIP had allocated multi-year funding to major groups like Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ Eagle Urban Transition Centre, but gave smaller groups a one-time allocation.

Bear Clan co-founder James Favel argued that small groups need consistent funding to keep the lights on. Though Ottawa had not extended a second request for proposals, Favel said it ought to do so for programs that didn't secure multi-year funds.

-- with files from Larry Kusch

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca