2nd homeless outreach vehicle gets ready to roll in Winnipeg

A second Winnipeg shelter is sending staff out in a vehicle in an effort to help people living on the streets in the cold.

Salvation Army joins Main Street Project to keep people on street warm, safe in cold weather

The van seats six people in the back at once and will be used to keep people living on the streets warm in the winter. It will also transport homeless people to shelters. (John Einarson/CBC)

A second Winnipeg shelter is sending staff out in a vehicle in an effort to help people living on the streets in the cold.

The Salvation Army announced Monday it has acquired an old ambulance it plans to use to rescue homeless people caught outside in extreme weather.

"We've seen every winter that this is a need," said Mark Stewart, residential co-ordinator with the Sally Ann. "We're just very excited to be able to have the opportunity to work with the community this way."

The Main Street Project launched its own outreach van program last week. Staff with the shelter started patrolling city streets ahead of schedule after a woman died outside during frigid overnight temperatures.

The Salvation Army's Thunder Bay chapter donated the converted ambulance to the Winnipeg shelter, as it wasn't being used at the time. The vehicle seats six people and was driven to Winnipeg over the weekend.

"What we have to offer is a vehicle more made for disaster services," Stewart said.

The Salvation Army isn't out to "compete" with the Main Street Project van, Stewart said.

"If the Main Street Project or any other organization would like to partner with us, we're more than willing to do that, but we are totally self-sufficient and able to carry this out on our own as well," Stewart said.

Funding for the Main Street Project van was cut about six years ago. Organizers with the shelter started the van patrols ahead of schedule last week amid blistering winter conditions. The shelter is currently still trying to secure the estimated $150,000 in funding needed to keep the program in operation for its first year back on the road.

Plans for the Salvation Army vehicle have been in the works for some time, Stewart said, and the timing is great considering the Main Street Project is encountering challenges finding money to staff its van.​

With the milder weather in the forecast this week, Stewart said it will give the shelter time to do a few dry runs before the vehicle is fully up and running next week.

Stewart said the hope is that the vehicle can be used to keep homeless people warm during the depths of winter and cool in the summer, as well. 

"We'll try to look at a long-term strategy for doing this instead of just every year trying to find the finances to do it," Stewart added.