Time for a housing-first model
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This article was published 09/03/2021 (812 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitobans are used to cold and snow but, if you’re unsheltered, a cold snap like the one we experienced in February can be life-threatening. Homelessness has an impact on every community in Manitoba and Fort Rouge sees it up close.
In recent months, we’ve all heard heartbreaking stories of people living in bus shelters and struggling to stay warm. Too many Manitobans find themselves facing an impossible choice of potential COVID-19 exposure or spending the night in the cold. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The provincial government can act now to address homelessness.
I want to thank the community organizations and volunteers in Fort Rouge who have stepped up to support our unsheltered neighbours. As some of our local businesses and libraries are able to re-open at reduced capacity, there are more warm places to go, but this is not a long-term solution. People experiencing homelessness, whether in Fort Rouge or across the province, deserve a warm place to stay where they can feel safe and supported.
The Pallister government has made it actively harder for Manitobans to access affordable housing. Since 2016, it has sold off 500 affordable housing units, failed to build a single new unit, and cut nearly $100 million from its housing maintenance budget. This year, in particular, many shelter beds have been lost due to pandemic restrictions and the provincial government has not even come close to making up for this reduced capacity.
It’s clear that housing is not a priority for the Pallister government. We found out through Freedom of Information requests that at the start of the pandemic it had left over 400 positions vacant within the Department of Families — the department responsible for helping Manitobans access housing, employment and income assistance, and child care. This 22 per cent job vacancy rate in the middle of a pandemic makes it harder for families to get the support they need.
The premier and his government need to step up immediately and adopt a housing-first model for Manitoba. When people are housed, they have fewer health problems and are better able to access employment, education, and addictions and/or mental health treatment. Housing is a public health issue and a crisis that will persist long after the pandemic unless we do something about it now.
My colleagues and I in the NDP caucus will continue to stand up against the Pallister government’s cuts and fight for safe, low-barrier housing for all Manitobans.
Contact my office anytime at 204-615-1922 or email me at email@example.com
Fort Rouge constituency report
Wab Kinew is the NDP MLA for Fort Rouge and leader of the Manitoba New Democratic Party.