Winnipeg mayoral hopeful Loney promises 'innovative' homelessness strategy if elected
He says his plan will be more cost effective, humane than 'old way of thinking'
Winnipeg mayoral candidate Shaun Loney says he will work to address homelessness in the city in a way that will free up emergency services and see non-profits better compensated for their work if elected in October.
"We're stuck in an old way of thinking," said Loney in a news conference at Main Street and Higgins Avenue on Monday.
The entrepreneur, author and former provincial environment policy analyst promised an "innovative strategy," which would see emergency services identify people they interact with regularly, determine the cash value of the staff time used annually to respond to these people and compensate designated non-profits for the value of the avoided dispatches.
The mayoral candidate says when people who are unhoused have a crisis, it can initiate an expensive — and sometimes ineffective — domino effect.
That can start with a 911 call and end with a trip to an emergency department where a paramedic or police officer often sits for hours with the patient to wait for medical treatment.
The root causes of trauma, addiction and mental health issues aren't addressed in those situations, Loney said, but his plan could tackle those, and help people access supportive housing and treatment.
"There are a number of paths that are both more humane and more cost-effective such as supportive housing, addictions treatment and mental health services," he said in the release.
If elected, Loney said he will work to ensure people who are living in bus shelters and along riverbanks are housed within a year, with people living downtown to be housed in a second phase.
Retired Winnipeg police officer Gord Friesen joined Loney at his announcement on Monday to show support for the plan to address homelessness.
"We need to give people what they need to live a good life," Friesen said.
He says police aren't always the best people to respond to certain calls.
"It's people who have had obstacles, whether it's intergenerational trauma or addiction or locked in poverty or abuse or whatever the case may be. So we need to think of who the people who can support those people best."
Rival questions financing on Loney plan
City Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James) said he appreciates his rival is raising a serious issue.
Gillingham, chair of the city finance committee up for over five years until recently, said there is a role third-party and non-profit organizations play in addressing homelessness.
He also thinks Loney's plan may have a financing issue, saying most budgets related to emergency services go toward salaries and benefits of staff.
He pointed to the Winnipeg Police Service as an example, saying 85 per cent of their budget goes to salaries and benefits.
"So to assume that a non-profit group could build housing with savings in emergency services may be problematic," he said. "We don't know how long it would take for emergency services to see those savings."
Gillingham has committed to boost funding for 24-7 safe spaces for those facing homelessness and has another announcement on the topic potentially coming this week.
Transcona city Coun. Shawn Nason pulled back on a plan to remove two bus shelters in his ward. He initially stated concerns of substance use in the shelters, and people living in them, as his reasons for wanting them gone, but changed his mind in favour of longer-term solutions.
'We have to do better'
Nason's decision was preceded by a letter from advocates to city leaders raising concerns and asking them to focus on the long term.
Cora Morgan, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs family advocate, responded at the time to Nason's 180, saying she was sceptical of the change in direction. She suggested city leaders already know what they have to do based on years of advice from advocates.
On Monday, she said First Nations people in the city are the most marginalized and disadvantaged, and that in order to give value to people's lives they need essential things like housing.
"Right now our First Nations people don't have belonging in this city, they don't have belonging in bus shacks" she said. "We have to do better. In this age of reconciliation it should be a priority to address these issues that cause our people to become homeless."
AMC does not endorse a particular mayoral candidate.
Loney and Gillingham are among 11 people who have now registered mayoral campaigns. The others are:
- Biosystems engineer Idris Ademuyiwa Adelakun.
- Former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray.
- Former Manitoba Liberal leader Rana Bokhari.
- Grocery worker Chris Clacio.
- Former MP Robert-Falcon Oulette.
- Wilderness supply owner Rick Shone.
- Security business owner Don Woodstock.
- Business consultant Jenny Motkaluk.
- Desmond Thomas.
The civic election is Oct. 26.
- In a previous version of this story, it was reported that there are nine mayoral candidates. In fact, there are 11.Jun 27, 2022 1:46 PM CT
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