Help the homeless ‘all the way home’
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/02/2021 (823 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
We need to do better.
On Feb. 7, we Manitoba Liberals released our Phase 2 report on homelessness in Winnipeg. For me, it has been a three-month journey to understand the reasons for so much homelessness in Manitoba.
Nancy Chippendale, an activist concerned about the needs of those experiencing homelessness, approached me last fall to say that we needed to look into the situation.
We did the planning in October. In November, December and January, we talked to many people who are trying to help those who are homeless. We also spoke with individuals with lived experience of being homeless. I learned a lot and the result is the report titled All the Way Home: Ending 40+ years of forced homelessness in Winnipeg.
This report focuses first on what we need to do immediately to get people experiencing homelessness off the street and into a better place to stay than a bus shelter.
Second, it focuses on how we help people get all the way home to a more positive and sustainable life trajectory.
We first emphasized the need for more warming shelters, which are badly needed during the COVID-19 pandemic when many places are closed. We suggested that there should be signs in bus shelters and maps so people know where the closest shelter is. We next recommended there be a central co-ordination of mobile units to help those who are homeless so when a transit driver sees a homeless person in a bus shelter, a dispatch centre can be notified so the person can be helped.
We also recommend a shift from the current approach of people in shelters for the long-term, to putting people quickly into hotels or apartments. I have visited Medicine Hat where this is done, and we can do it in Winnipeg.
The federal government has provided a fund of $500 million so provinces can purchase hotels to house the homeless. Sadly, Manitoba has not made use of this. We suggest in our report that improved partnerships with Indigenous organizations are needed, as well as more involvement of Indigenous people in staffing and running organizations which help those who are homeless.
As an example, we suggest that if the Province will not use the money to purchase hotels, it should be made available to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Manitoba Metis Federation. We also need to ensure that individuals experiencing homelessness are helped “All the way home”.
By this, we mean improving the way supports are provided so that they can move on to more positive and sustainable life trajectories including, where possible, employment. Employment and income assistance needs to be provided more quickly instead of people having to wait four weeks just to get an intake appointment.
We also found that addictions programs, in particular access to detox, are not adequately available. There is also a need to effectively co-ordinate programs so that people can move seamlessly from one step to another.
Finally, we found that we need to do better in helping people get access to a job, including the training for it. Instead of being known as a city where homeless people camp in bus shelters, we should be known as a progressive city which helps people experiencing homelessness get all the way home.
Our full report is available on my MLA web site at www.jongerrardmla.ca
River Heights constituency report
Jon Gerrard is Liberal MLA for River Heights.