Winnipeg's first 24/7 warming centre for people under the influence set to open this week

Main Street Project's new drop-in centre will welcome anyone at any time, regardless of drug or alcohol use.

Main Street Project's drop-in centre will welcome anyone, regardless of drug or alcohol use

Main Street Project's new warming centre will open this week at the group's new location in the former Mitchell Fabrics building. The drop-in centre is welcome to anyone, whether or not they are homeless or under the influence.

A new drop-in centre that welcomes people under the influence will be opening its doors in downtown Winnipeg this week.

Main Street Project's new drop-in centre will offer visitors a safe spot to rest and warm up any time of day or night, according to executive director Rick Lees.

"This is a warming centre regardless of circumstance," Lees said.

Like Main Street Project's shelter a few doors down, its new drop-in centre accepts people who have consumed alcohol, meth, or other drugs, provided they are not violent.

But instead of beds, the drop-in will provide comfortable chairs and seating, along with food, and access to games, televisions, and computers.

"The bottom line is we want to get people off the streets so they're safe," he said.

The news comes as many have been calling for more to be done to protect those experiencing addiction from frigid  temperatures.

An alternative to shelters

The drop-in centre will allow visitors to come and go as they please, unlike a standard shelter in the city.

"In a shelter, when you come in at night, you tend to get a mat or a bed, and a place to stay. And we ask that you stay in for the night, because you want to keep track of people, and it's difficult to have people coming and going," Lees said.

"A warming centre is really 24 hours ... if they choose to go back out again, we also respect that."

The hope is to reach vulnerable people who don't feel comfortable in a regular shelter setting, he said.

"It's about giving people back that choice."

"There's a lot of people that are actually up at night, and roaming the streets. They sleep during the day. So this will give those people that option," he added.

Main Street Project's new warming centre is designed to provide a warm, comfortable spot to those in need of a warm place to stay. The layout will include a dining area, comfortable seating, a television and computer. (Provided/Main Street Project)

Lees said until now, the Main Street Project operated a drop-in centre during the day, and a sleeping shelter at night, all in the same location. That meant people who didn't want to stay overnight were told to leave every evening to make way for those who did.

He also expects the drop-in centre will help during summertime heat-waves as well.

Drop-in centre first step in larger project

The drop-in centre—which is expected to draw 20 to 40 people at any given time— is being opened thanks to funding from the City of Winnipeg and End Homelessness Winnipeg, Lee said.

It's the first project to open in the former Mitchell Fabrics building— which Main Street Project purchased in September.

Right now, the group is operating its main shelter out of a 2,100 square foot building a few doors down.

The plan is to eventually move everything into the 36,000 square foot Mitchell Fabrics building. The plans for the new building include the shelter, a cafeteria, and counselling services, which will be able to help 150 people at a time.

The $10 million project has received funding support from the federal government, but is still waiting on the province to allocate its share, Lees said.

Main Street Project's new building will eventually house both its drop-in centre and it's overnight shelter, with the capacity to take in 150 people. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg

Journalist

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von.stackelberg@cbc.ca

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