Sscope asking for financial aid from all 3 levels of government in order to stay in current building

A central Winnipeg non-profit is asking all three levels of government for financial assistance.

Sscope, which stands for Self-starting Creative Opportunities for People in Employment, is facing a funding shortfall that could force nearly 90 people onto the streets in the new year.

The former Neechi Commons building on Main Street, between Jarvis and Euclid avenues, provides permanent housing for 46 people and overnight shelter for another 40 in the building’s front lobby.

“This building is people’s homes,” Angela McCaughan, Sscope executive director said Wednesday evening.

The non-profit social enterprise has been in existence for 30 years, supplying employment for people living with mental health issues. It transitioned into a shelter during the pandemic, and after moving into its current home in August 2020, transitioned into housing for people living with mental issues.

She estimates more than 85 per cent of the people Sscope serves are either Indigenous, Métis or Inuit.

“We found that people who were homeless, it’s very difficult to be employed when you are homeless,” McCaughan said.

It’s also difficult when you’re short on money.

McCaughan told CBC News monthly rent is $16,000, plus utilities. 

Sscope applied for funding through the city stream of the Rapid Housing Initiative last year, but that was denied. 

On Tuesday, the organization was told by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation that its application for funding through the initiative’s project stream had also been denied. 

“There is no reason to deny our funding. We are trailblazers. Nobody is doing what we are doing and we’re successful at doing it,” McCaughan said.

Without money from the city, province and Ottawa by Jan. 6, Sscope will have to find a new location to operate its social enterprise, meaning employment for approximately 183 individuals could be affected.

“I need $500,000 from each level of government for a down payment. And then you know what else I need? Nothing. I need nothing because we are self-sufficient and self-sustainable from the revenue of our business streams,” McCaughan said.

If Sscope is forced to move from its location on 865 Main Street, it is estimated that employment for more than 180 people could be affected. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Residents pay $589 per month, which includes room and board, food and toiletries to live in long-term supportive housing on the building’s second floor. They earn that money by working as part of the enterprise, which includes a bike shop, bakery and thrift store on the main floor.

People want hope and McCaughan says Sscope provides people with hope.

“What we’re looking for is a down payment for the building, so that we can house and employ people long-term …” she said. “Shelter doesn’t work. Shelter is temporary. You cannot offer people shelter from November to March and then throw them back on the street.”

She added that “we are never going to end homelessness until we create different types of permanent housing.”

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