A home designed to keep people off drugs and out of jail is about to close its doors as federal funding is set to expire on March 31.
The transitional home is a spot where people going through Winnipeg’s Drug Treatment Court can go to stay clean and stay on the path to a different lifestyle.
'Someone who is truly homeless is not likely going to show up for programming every morning' - Dave Grift, Addictions Foundation of Manitoba
Drug Court is an alternative justice program for addicts caught breaking the law to support their habit.
Instead of going to jail, they’re enrolled in a treatment program.
But a requirement of the program is to have a stable place to live; for some addicts that meant being ineligible for the program.
About two and a half years ago, a transitional housing program was set up to address that need.
Winnipeg’s Alex McDonnell credits the housing arrangement, known as the Winnipeg Drug Treatment Court Housing Supports Program, with his recovery.
“I think the one thing that addicts need in their life is that authority and that, you know, that consequence is going to be there and that trouble you’re going to get into by using,” said McDonnell. “It’s almost what kept me sane and sober at the beginning.”
McDonnell was 20 years old when he faced fraud and theft charges and was dealing with an addiction to cocaine.
Instead of landing in jail, he went through drug court and ended up in a treatment house.
He spent three months there, with a mentor around 24 hours a day to help with his recovery.
But the home and the live-in councillor were paid for by the federal government. More than two years ago, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada provided $200,000 to get the program off the ground.
With those funds set to evaporate on March 31, the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba will have to find another way of keeping it open.
“It’s hard to do programming without housing, right? Someone who is truly homeless is not likely going to show up for programming every morning,” said Dave Grift, a client services manager with the foundation.
Grift said without a home to send addicts to, judges will be forced to send them to jail.
But associate chief Judge John Guy said addicts are doing well in the housing program.
“This is one of the satisfactory aspects of this program. I see that people are successful,” said Guy. “If you can get them in there long enough and change those habits, we find that we might be successful.”
Provincial court Judge Tracey Lord presides over drug court and said she hopes alternative funding can be found.
"To be accepted into the program you have to be a manageable risk in the communitybecause you are on bail," she said. "And residence is a big part of that."
Lord says she wants to have the housing program up and running again as soon as possible.
As for McDonnell, he’s still sober a year after moving out of the transitional house. He’s now living on his own and said it’s too bad others like him won’t get the same chance to break the cycle.
Statement from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
Under the Federal Horizontal Pilot Project funding stream of the HPS, ESDC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Justice in the fall 2011 to support a pilot project to explore the impacts that supportive housing and support services have on participants’ success and graduation rates from the Winnipeg Drug Treatment Court (WDTC) program.
ESDC provided funding to the Department of Justice who held the contribution agreement with the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba to provide supportive housing and services to participants of the WDTC.
The contribution agreement ends on March 31, 2014. It was established for a time-limited project only; therefore no extension could be granted.
Federal Horizontal Pilot Projects funding is used for joint projects with other federal departments and agencies—such as Health Canada, Veterans Affairs Canada, and Justice Canada—that address factors linked to homelessness such as corrections, employment, mental health, family violence, and immigration.