Winnipeg's Downtown BIZ is calling for around-the-clock operation of an outreach van that helps homeless people downtown and in the North End find shelter in cold temperatures.
The organization is providing $35,000 in funding for Main Street Project's patrol van to try to make that happen, but Shawn Matthews of the Downtown BIZ said that isn't enough.
The patrol van service was brought out of hibernation this winter for the first time in six years, but funding problems mean it can only go out when temperatures drop below –20 C.
Matthews said he wants to see businesses, community members and government pitch in to keep it on the streets.
"We feel that although [government is] part of the solution, they're not the only solution," he said.
"If we can work together and do … our part, we think that's a viable and more of a sustainable solution."
Matthews said the organization doesn't know what it will do when the money runs out.
On Sunday morning, a 53-year-old woman died after being out in frigid temperatures.
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Her death prompted another local group to call an emergency meeting for Friday with a variety of social service providers to prevent more deaths on the streets.
Winnipeg already has a working group dedicated to developing a long-term strategy on homelessness, but Louis Sorin, executive director of End Homelessness Winnipeg, said he wants Friday's meeting to focus on immediate action.
"It's about 'what can we do now?' as far as the city, as far as the province or as far as the service agencies and health care sector and shelters," Sorin said.
"It shouldn't be an emergency because this is typical Winnipeg weather. It's a call-out for us to come to the table and put on the table … what we have to offer."
Sorin said he called on local shelters, social agencies, city police and fire paramedic officials, and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to attend the meeting.
City, province on homelessness funding
Since 2012, the city of Winnipeg has been the administrator of money dedicated to fight homelessness through the federally-funded Homelessness Partnering Strategy, a city spokeswoman wrote in an email on Wednesday.
Money distributed by the program is given out according to a selection process based on a call for proposals.
In 2015, the city rejected a proposal to purchase the patrol van from Main Street Project, the spokeswoman wrote.
She said the city hasn't received a request from the group to operate the van.
A call for proposals is open right now which the group could use to apply for funding, she said.
A spokesman for Manitoba Housing said the province is looking into the issue to see what the city needs right now.
The province provides funding for nine homeless outreach mentors at eight different agencies in Winnipeg, including Main Street Project, he said.
The mentors connect homeless or vulnerable people with supports, housing and income to help secure long-term housing.