Manitoba

'We need to change': Group sets sights on housing 1,500 homeless Winnipeggers by 2025

Sounds from a drum circle filled Thunderbird House Monday morning as a group working to combat homelessness released an ambitious plan to help those on the streets find more permanent housing.

5-year plan from End Homelessness includes goal of adding 1,340 additional housing units in city

Sounds of a drum circle echoed throughout Thunderbird House Monday morning as about 100 people gathered for the unveiling of a five-year plan from End Homelessness Winnipeg. (Gilbert Rowan/Radio-Canada)

Sounds from a drum circle filled Thunderbird House Monday morning as a group working to combat homelessness released an ambitious plan to help those on the streets find more permanent housing.

End Homelessness Winnipeg unveiled a five-year plan with seven targets it hopes to reach by 2025, including housing the 1,519 people experiencing absolute or partial homelessness who were counted during a 2018 street census.

The plan aligns with a 10-year city of Winnipeg plan to end homelessness launched in 2014 as well as the federal government Reaching Home homelessness strategy, which is providing money for housing in the city.

It set out goals to make a shift from managing homelessness through emergency services to ending it long-term, said Lucille Bruce.

"We felt that it was really important that if we were to set targets that we would set high targets," said Bruce, CEO of End Homelessness Winnipeg.

Lucille Bruce says End Homelessness set ambitious goals are based on the specific needs for housing the more than 1,500 homeless people in the city. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Indigenous people over-represented on streets

End Homelessness also announced it has transitioned to becoming an Indigenous organization, with greater than 70 per cent of staff and board members being Indigenous, said Bruce.

That representation allows End Homelessness and partner organizations to better respond to the needs and issues facing a homeless community that is largely Indigenous, said board chair Jason Whitford.

The majority of people encountered during the street census last year were Indigenous (about 60 per cent), despite only about 12 per cent of Winnipeg's population having First Nation, Métis or Inuit heritage.

Jason Whitford is chair of End Homelessness Winnipeg. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

"We need to change things," Whitford told a room of about 100 at Thunderbird House during the unveiling. "Indigenous people are over-represented in homelessness."

Targets for the five-year plan include reducing Indigenous over-representation in emergency shelters by 50 per cent in the next six years and shortening the lengths of stays in shelters so 92 per cent stay less than 10 days.

End Homelessness also wants to eliminate a trend of people released from jail or those who were under the care of Child and Family Services slipping into homelessness. The 2018 street census found half of homeless respondents cited having been in CFS at some point in their lives.

The targets also include expanding the use of the federal Housing Individuals and Families Information system (HIFIS) to 45 organizations that serve the homeless to ensure all groups are working in a more co-ordinated fashion.

Finally, End Homelessness is hoping to prevent 90 per cent of those served through that network of organizations from re-entering life on the street.

Feds to help build housing

Of the seven targets included in the five-year plan, End Homelessness wants to bring together a variety of players in the non-profit, private and government sectors to add 1,340 additional housing units.

Last spring, End Homelessness secured $9 million in annual funds on an ongoing basis from the federal government's Reaching Home program. 

The non-profit hopes to leverage relationships with developers and service providers to building the 1,340 housing units.

Corinne Isaak is the manager of evaluation and shared measurement for End Homelessness Winnipeg. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

The plan will all be tied together through a coordinated access system, which will direct those experiencing homelessness to experts trained to assess their needs and connect them with housing and other services.

Corrine Isaak, manager of evaluation and shared measurement with End Homelessness, said the ambitious targets build accountability.

"That's not only accountability for us as the backbone organization, but accountability for the whole community in that this is the need out there," Isaak said.

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About the Author

Bryce Hoye

Reporter

Bryce Hoye is an award-winning journalist and science writer with a background in wildlife biology and interests in courts, social justice, health and more. He is the Prairie rep for OutCBC. Story idea? Email bryce.hoye@cbc.ca.