In partnership with approximately 30 community agencies and representatives from the City of Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba, we have launched a short-term community response plan to the cold weather. The plan was a response to another life lost due to cold exposure at the end of 2017. While the woman in question was not homeless and her situation was complicated, it was a harsh reminder that very few resources are available to her after 9pm and our bitter cold is life threatening for our most vulnerable citizens. The plan is an initial response to a crisis by organizations to keep people safe overnight.
Our coalition is working to:
- Expand/open new warming centres in areas people are rough sleeping
- target demographics not served well by traditional shelter system (youth, women and the LGBT2SQ community)
- increase van patrols throughout the city to move people to places of warmth
- to increase public knowledge of the resources available
As an immediate step, we have secured funding for:
- the WE-24 Space at MERC for youth to be open seven nights a week until March 31
- a temporary warming centre for women and the LGBT2SQ community, location to be determined
This is short term solution to a much more complicated problem. A longer term Extreme Weather Strategy is needed for the City of Winnipeg and that work is being led by End Homelessness Winnipeg.
Message from our Executive Director Lorie English:
Every day that West Central Women’s Resource Centre is open, we can see up to 100 women walk through our doors: women from a myriad of backgrounds who are all looking for the same thing – A safe space. And at the end of each day, we watch these women walk out of our doors. Too many of them have nowhere safe to go.
There are simply too few resources available after 9pm, and when our temperatures can drop to minus 40 degrees, this is no longer a mere gap in services – it is a life-threatening situation. The reality is that our shelter system and most of our housing programs have been created around a man’s experience of homelessness. As a result, women are falling through the cracks.
The three downtown shelters are doing incredible and important work however women often don’t feel safe going there. Whether the risks are perceived or real, they are very real for the women who are experiencing them. Many women end up staying in chaotic or unstable situations overnight because a familiar unsafe environment feels like a better option than an unknown unsafe environment. Others walk the streets the entire night to stay warm. Women need 24 hour access to a space that feels welcoming and safe.
That’s why we are pleased to partner with Rainbow Resource Centre to open a temporary warming centre for women and the LGBT2SQ community. We look forward to confirming the location of the site and opening the doors in the coming days.
It’s important to note that this is not where the work ends.
Warming centres provide a short-term solution to the much more complicated issues of homelessness and poverty. Winnipeg needs a robust and ongoing Extreme Weather Strategy and that work is being led by End Homelessness Winnipeg. But women don’t just experience homelessness in the winter – an Extreme Weather Strategy must fit within a comprehensive plan to prevent and address women’s homelessness. Thanks to the support of Status of Women Canada, we are currently conducting extensive research that will result in a Gender-Based Strategy to End Homelessness in Winnipeg.
Women, trans, two-spirit and non-binary individuals experience unique paths to homelessness that require equally unique solutions. Our plan will ensure Winnipeg’s efforts to address homelessness include a gender-based approach so that these individuals no longer fall through the cracks.
We believe everyone should have access to housing, safety, dignity and warmth and thanks to our incredible partners, our city has a little more of each.