Troubled Winnipeg halfway house closed for good

A Winnipeg halfway house intended to help men get out of aboriginal street gangs has closed for good.

A Winnipeg halfway house intended to help men get out of aboriginal street gangs has closed for good.

Paapiiwak ran into trouble last month when Winnipeg police arrested some staff members and residents, alleging they created a haven for gangs.

At the time, the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg stepped in to help sort out the mess, but the council's president, Damon Johnston, declared on Thursday that Paapiiwak is beyond saving.

Founded in 2003 under the umbrella of Thunderbird House — a facility that includes a traditional prayer lodge and aboriginal spirituality programs — Paapiiwak was most recently functioning independently under the guidance of a board of directors that legally incorporated the organization.

At least, it was supposed to be. Last month CBC learned Paapiiwak had been run by an ex-gang member for at least six months without a functioning board of director or any other supervision.

Located on Maple Street in Point Douglas, Paapiiwak was designed to operate as a traditional housing shelter whose primary objective, according to its website, was to promote, protect and support the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental well-being of aboriginal males.

Paapiiwak had a goal of helping those men break free from a lifestyle involving gang, drug and alcohol addiction, and associated activity. It was also required to monitor the bail conditions of those people it took in who were recently released from jail.

Funded by all three levels of government through the Winnipeg Housing and Homelessness Initiative, Paapiiwak was the first halfway house of its kind in Canada. Its funding was cut off in mid-January after criminal charges were laid against several staff members and clients.

The staff members were charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly covering up for clients who had broken curfew, abused alcohol and breached bail conditions, according to police.