Brandon organizations planning 20-unit facility to fill transitional housing gap

An ongoing transitional housing crisis in southwestern Manitoba is forcing organizations to get creative when it comes to providing shelter and resources for those in need.

John Howard Society, Youth for Christ working on home to help people who have been incarcerated reintegrate

A rendering of a three-story building surrounded by green space.
A pre-development architectural design by Brandon's Samson Engineering Inc. for the John Howard Society's proposed transitional housing unit. The hope is to start construction next year, for a 2024 opening, says the executive director of Brandon's John Howard Society. (Samson Engineering Inc.)

With southwestern Manitoba facing a shortage of transitional housing, two service organizations in Brandon are working on a plan for a new 20-unit facility that will help people who have been incarcerated move into permanent housing.

Brandon's John Howard Society, working with Westman Youth for Christ, has commissioned a pre-development architectural design for a new three-storey building, which it hopes to potentially have open as soon as 2024.

The city hit a transitional housing crisis point with the closing of the YWCA's Meredith Place, which offered transitional housing, in the spring, said John Howard Society executive director Ross Robinson.

The John Howard Society — which works with people who have been involved in the justice system, including those who have been incarcerated — was spurred to pursue housing after the closure of Meredith Place, because there was no longer a halfway house to accommodate those released from correctional centres on day parole.

"What is happening now is that people are … staying longer in the federal institution, maximizing their sentence there, and then being released completely in this society, and that's not good for recidivism," Robinson said.

"When you get released from incarceration and you have no place to go and your only options are the street, or Safe and Warm [Brandon's shelter for those who are homeless], or perhaps the negative environment that you came from ... the obstacles are already in place to get in the way of your proper recovery."

The proposed site plan incorporates housing and supports for those released on day parole.

The main floor of the space will focus on programming, healing and building community, Robinson said.

The second floor will have 12 suites, with shared shower rooms, offering three-month stays to people moving out of shelters or transitioning out of institutions.

The third floor will have eight transitional suites with a small kitchen, bathroom and living area. Those suites will offer roughly year-long stays.

The John Howard Society is also working with Corrections Canada to ensure that the proposed space meets all its needs for offering shelter to people on day parole.

The hope is to see shovels in the ground in 2023, with a possible opening the next year, Robinson said. For now, the next step is finalizing the costs of the proposed facility.

The organization first needs to secure land before project costs can be determined.

Growing need for transitional housing: BNRC

Dwayne Dyck of Youth for Christ said partnering on the project was a natural fit for his faith-based organization, which has been working in youth homelessness for many years. Dyck will take the lead of the project's development, including funding and helping with some of the different pieces of the plan.

"We have a gap in our community," for transitional housing that Youth for Christ wants to help fill, he said.

"It's a recognized community need."

The proposed project would be bigger than the space that was available at Meredith Place, he said. Currently, there's nothing like the proposed space in Brandon.

Funding is the biggest barrier the project faces now, and Dyck said it will take time and collaboration to bring the vision to life.

A rendering of a proposed building.
A pre-development architectural design shows the proposed transitional housing space located on the north side of a site, with the idea that the majority of the suites on the second and third floors will face out towards nature. (Samson Engineering Inc.)

Transitional housing is essential for the growing southwestern Manitoba city, said Rushana Newman, executive director at the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation.

Her organization helped secure $75,000 in funding for John Howard to get the pre-development architectural design for the new site. That money came through the federal government's Reaching Home program, centred on proposals to build or maintain projects that address housing and homelessness.

There is a lack of space to help people make a smooth integration back into the labour market and general society after they've been incarcerated, she said.

Service providers in the city work with those who need transitional housing, supportive housing or affordable housing every day. Newman said these needs are growing in Brandon.

"We need spaces to build, we need spaces to buy, we need partners," she said.

"One of the biggest, biggest drawbacks is getting partners to assist with this, because you know that we cannot do it alone — the BNRC can't do it by themselves. We need assistance from the government, all levels of government, and other stakeholders."


Chelsea Kemp

Brandon Reporter

Chelsea Kemp is a multimedia journalist with CBC Manitoba. She is based in CBC's bureau in Brandon, covering stories focused on rural Manitoba. Share your story ideas, tips and feedback with