Warming centres to open 7 nights a week for Winnipeg's most vulnerable homeless
Youth under 24, members of LGBT community, women will be invited to come inside and stay warm
Some members of Winnipeg's homeless population will soon have a new place to stay warm at night.
"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.
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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.
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.
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.
"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."