Manitoba

Brandon shelter makes room for more amid housing crunch

It's been a busy winter for Brandon's only overnight shelter — and it's only January.

Samaritan House Ministries looking to expand winter shelter to allow clients to stay longer

Samaritan House Ministries operates an emergency shelter for the homeless in Brandon during the winter months. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

It's been a busy winter for Brandon's only overnight shelter — and it's only January. 

John Jackson, executive director of Samaritan House Ministries, said visitors have stayed a combined 580 nights since the shelter opened for the season in October. In all of last year, people stayed for a combined 600 nights. 

"We'll never turn anyone away," said Jackson. "We will find a way to make it work for people to stay here, but we are outgrowing our space."

Jackson says about a dozen people stay in the shelter each night. The facility has 20 cots and can be expanded, if needed, by adding additional mats on the floor.

See inside Samaritan House Ministries:

'We'll never turn anyone away,' Brandon shelter expands amid housing crunch

4 years ago
Duration 1:53
It's been a busy winter for Brandon's only overnight shelter — and it's only January. visitors have stayed a combined 580 nights since the shelter opened for the season in October.

While last year the shelter welcomed 150 guests, so far this year about 100 have come for a stay. 

The shelter was also able to open nearly two weeks earlier than normal after an anonymous donor stepped up. 

Housing a factor

Jackson believes fewer options for housing could be leading to more people on the streets at night.

"That's a big problem," he said. "But that's also a problem that's difficult to tackle. I don't think there's a quick and easy solution."

Massey Manor, an affordable housing complex which housed more than 150 people, was badly damaged in a fire that devoured several downtown buildings in May. Restoration crews are still working in the complex.

Jackson also said an increase in out-of-town workers — like those working on projects like Embridge's Line 3 pipeline — could be leaving less options for rentals. 

As a result, he heard of some people taking up shelter in bank lobbies and other buildings last week as temperatures plunged. On the weekend, overnight lows in Brandon dipped in the –30 C range.

Renovations could help people stay longer

"I don't think we're capturing everyone that who potentially could stay in the shelter," he said. "Of course it's heartbreaking to see people in those circumstances."

A survey of the city's homeless and less fortunate found more than 120 were classified as homeless in Brandon in spring 2018.

Jackson said the centre would also like to fundraise for renovations to its current space to allow for people to stay longer. Currently, he said those that stay overnight have to be out by 8 a.m., so the shelter space can be set up as a food bank during the day. 

"It affects us all," he said. "If we can help people, we're not just about giving people a stay, we're also about connecting them with resources."

The shelter is open nightly during the winter at Samaritan House Ministries at 820 Pacific Ave., in Brandon.

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