Tiny homes project would see 22 units for homeless people in downtown Winnipeg

A city councillor says 22 mini homes could shelter homeless Winnipeggers if funding is secured.

Project needs federal funding to get off the ground: city councillor

This rendering shows what the proposed project would look like at Thunderbird House. (Submitted by Cibinel Architecture)

A city councillor says 22 mini homes could shelter homeless people in Winnipeg, if funding is secured.

Point Douglas Coun. Vivian Santos says the Village Project would see 22 tiny homes placed near the Circle of Life Thunderbird House at Main Street and Higgins Avenue — an area where many homeless people already sleep outside.

The homes would be made out of recycled shipping containers and would be about 200 to 250 square feet in size, she said. Residents would share laundry and eating facilities in a circle around the edge of the building.

Santos said the city has approved a request to put housing on the downtown land. The project could soon get off the ground, if new federal rapid housing funding comes through.

End Homelessness Winnipeg has already secured about 50 per cent of the capital costs for the project and believes it will move forward, Santos said.

"It's shovel-ready and we're at the stage now we're just waiting for this little bit of funding to get it off the ground."

Santos announced the proposed project via Twitter on Friday, but said it's been in the works for longer.

End Homelessness Winnipeg reached out to her last year and brought forward the idea. That organization was initially looking at land near Higgins Avenue, where there is a homeless encampment, but getting approval for that was challenging because it's zoned for industrial use, Santos said.

The community organization Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre would choose who gets to live in the units and administer the program, Santos said.

Point Douglas Coun. Vivian Santos says she'd like to see more tiny homes for the homeless after the initial project gets off the ground. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

She said it's important to engage with homeless people downtown, "because that's where they are right now, and I want them to feel welcomed in the downtown.

"I'm not here to push anybody out. The services are here, the need is here and so we should be setting up here in the downtown."

Homelessness is a complicated issue, the councillor said. It's also one that has been in the forefront recently, after the death of a person in a fire at a homeless camp earlier this week, and as the COVID-19 pandemic has limited some of the resources normally available for people who are homeless in the city.

"We need to take immediate action, and I think if we can get all levels of government to come say yes, this is an issue, and we need to come together and solve it together … I think that's really the important step," Santos said.

"The city can't do it alone and I'm not expecting Winnipeggers to do it alone. We need everybody on board, which is grassroots, community-led, Indigenous organizations — we need every level of government on board."

With files from Austin Grabish