A Winnipeg community activist says he might have a solution to house people who have been living in heated transit shelters.
Michael Redhead Champagne told 680 CJOB he knows of some Manitoba Housing units that have sat unoccupied for two years in the city’s North End.
“It just seems like a sharp contrast where we have people who don’t have a place to sleep at night in the city of Winnipeg, but then at the same time we have low-income housing units that have been empty in Manitoba housing for a long time,” said Champagne.
“Some units have been empty for up to two years, they’ve stopped doing maintenance on those units, and so it’s confusing and frustrating for me to see that there are people cold and outside, when we have this housing stock that is sitting there.”
Champagne said he wants everyone to push all three levels of government to put that housing to use.
“I think we, as citizens of Winnipeg, have to push a little harder on our different levels of government to try and address the fact that we do have legitimate and available housing stock in the city of Winnipeg right now where people could go and stay.”
The pandemic has resulted in added difficulties for the city’s homeless population. Already dealing with bitter cold — and another cold snap on the way — people looking for a warm place to sleep are also faced with limited space at local shelters.
Organizations like the Salvation Army are being extra hard because they’ve had to lower capacity to ensure social distancing to follow public health protocols.
The Salvation Army’s Kristen Burridge, the Winnipeg Centre of Hope’s director of addictions, emergency and transitional care, told Global News in late January that the centre is working at less than half-capacity due to the coronavirus.
“Typically in the winter, we will open up our cold weather beds so instead of having our typical 45 (spots) in the cold weather shelter we could go up to 100 in years past,” she said.
“But because of COVID restrictions, we are actually only allowed to have 44 in our emergency shelter.”
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