Winnipeg shelter to close intoxicated persons unit during day without funding boost

Staff and volunteers at the Main Street Project fear they will have to close a special 20-bed protective care unit as early as June unless the centre receives a funding boost.

Main Street Project's special 20-bed care area may be forced to end daytime service by June

The Intoxicated Persons Attention Area at Main Street Project is a safe space for police to bring people who are intoxicated or having an addictions crisis. (CBC)

Staff at a Winnipeg shelter fear they will have to close down a special protective care unit during daytime hours unless the centre receives a funding boost.

The 20-bed Intoxicated Persons Detention Area at the Main Street Project is a safe place where police and emergency officials can drop off people who are intoxicated or struggling with addictions issues.

Main Street Project executive director Rick Lees said the centre has been operating at a $100,000 loss annually since 2009 and can no longer afford to keep the detention area open around the clock. 

"That is not something Main Street Project wants to see happen at all," Lees said.

Rick Lees, executive director of the Main Street Project, says the Intoxicated Persons Attention Area will close during daytime hours as early as June if the non-profit doesn't receive more funding. (CBC)

"I think that's going in completely in the opposite direction of what our mandate is, but at the same time Main Street Project is a small charity and we just don't have the pockets to cover the losses."

If the detention area, commonly known as a "drunk tank," is closed, police will have to take intoxicated clients to the Winnipeg Remand Centre or to hospital emergency rooms.

"It sort of flies in the face of the recent discussions around consolidation of emergency rooms and would put undo pressure on those facilities when in fact we should be an ally of those facilities," Lees said.

Funding the Main Street Project currently receives from the province covers up to $60 per client per day, but Lees said it costs the facility about $70 to accommodate a single client per stay.

Lees said if the centre is unable to negotiate a deal for more funding from the province, the special unit will be closed during the day as early as June.

The province responded to CBC's request for comment with an emailed statement.

"Manitoba provides the City of Winnipeg with significant operating funding to deliver important services, including direct funding to public safety. Winnipeg has in the past applied some of this funding to the Main Street Project through the Winnipeg Police Service for short-term detoxification services. Budget 2017 ensures that operating funding to Winnipeg continues at the same level as 2016/17."

With files from Jill Coubrough