Manitoba

Warming centres to open 7 nights a week for Winnipeg's most vulnerable homeless

Some members of Winnipeg's homeless population will soon have a new place to stay warm at night.

Youth under 24, members of LGBT community, women will be invited to come inside and stay warm

Jamil Mahmood said the warming centres will be put to good use. (Warren Kay/CBC)

Some members of Winnipeg's homeless population will soon have a new place to stay warm at night.

Youth, women and members of the LGBT community will be able to stay overnight at warming centres with new extended hours, thanks to $50,000 in funding secured recently by advocates working for the homeless.

Warming centres to open 7 nights a week

CBC News Manitoba

3 years agoVideo
1:48
Some members of Winnipeg's homeless population will soon have a new place to stay warm at night. Youth, women and members of the LGBT community will be able to stay overnight at warming centres with new extended hours. 1:48

"This was a really community-led answer to a big problem that our city is facing," said Lorie English, executive director of the West Central Women's Resource Centre.

The push to find the funding, and ways to keep Winnipeg's homeless warm, followed the death of Windy Sinclair.

Sinclair, a 29-year-old mother of four, was found frozen outside a West Broadway apartment on Dec. 28, 2017, days after she left Seven Oaks Hospital, where she was getting help for her meth addiction.

Sinclair wasn't homeless but news of her death spurred agencies who work with people living on the streets to look for ways to prevent future deaths.
Windy Sinclair, a 29-year-old mother of four, was found frozen outside a West Broadway apartment on Dec. 28. She wasn't homeless but news of her death spurred agencies who work with people living on the streets to find ways to prevent future deaths. (Submitted by Eleanor Sinclair)

The short-term strategy is to extend the West End 24/7 Safe Space for youth, which operates at a rec centre on Langside Street, to seven nights a week, and open a warming centre in a second location for women and LGBT people until March 31.

Bowman to announce funding Thursday

The Winnipeg Foundation is providing $30,000 for the project and Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman will announce $20,000 for it Thursday afternoon. The province is also chipping in $20,000 for the project this winter through End Homelessness Winnipeg. English said the hope is that the warming centres can be up and running by the end of the week.

She said details are just being ironed out about a second location for women and LGBT people, but should be finalized soon.
Mayor Brian Bowman will announce $20,000 in funding for the warming centres Thursday afternoon. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

English said the two populations have specific needs that might not currently be met by shelters already operating in the city, adding women and queer folks might not stay at a shelter because they don't feel safe there.

"Whether those risks are perceived or real, they're very real for the person experiencing them," she said.

'Cracks in our system'

"We need to be there for our most vulnerable. There's cracks in our systems that exist," added Jamil Mahmood, executive director of the ‎Spence Neighbourhood Association, which runs the 24/7 program for youth.

Mahmood said the Winnipeg Foundation was quick to offer funding to pay for staff costs at the warming centres. While he's happy the mayor is announcing funding for the strategy, he added it was disappointing it happened only after the death of Windy Sinclair.
Lorie English said the hope is that no one will die in the frigid cold this winter with the opening of the centres. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

"The city should be stepping up and doing this without the community having to force their hand or have a major tragedy. A lot of this stuff gets funded after tragedy, and we're here saying it should happen before the tragedies."

English said the hope is another $20,000 will still be secured from another donor to help pay for the cost of new sleeping mats and snacks.

Mahmood said the warming centres will be put to good use even if the weather warms up before the end of March, since homelessness doesn't stop with the end of winter.

"The reality is that it's needed year round, 365 days a year."

'We need to be there for our most vulnerable': Jamil Mahmood on why warming centres are important for Winnipeg's homeless

CBC News Manitoba

3 years agoVideo
0:54
Jamil Mahmood runs the West End 24/7 Safe Space which operates at a rec centre on Langside Street. Youth, women and members of the LGBT community will be able to stay overnight at warming centres with new extended hours, thanks to $50,000 in funding secured recently by advocates working for the homeless. 0:54

About the Author

​Austin Grabish landed his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. In 2019, he was on the ground in northern Manitoba covering the manhunt for B.C. fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, which attracted international attention. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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