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, her situation was still complicated. This incident is a harsh reminder that very few resources are available after 9 PM, and Winnipeg’s 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.

The coalition is working to:

  • Expand/open new warming centres in areas people are rough sleeping
  • Target demographics not served well by the traditional shelter system (youth, women and the LGBT2SQ community)
  • Increase van patrols throughout the city to move people to places of warmth
  • 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 plan is a short-term solution to a much more complicated problem. The City of Winnipeg needs a longer-term Extreme Weather Strategy, and End Homelessness Winnipeg is leading that work.

Our Executive Director Lorie English announcing the Short-Term Cold Weather Plan with Mayor Bowman and community partners.

Message from our Executive Director Lorie English:

Every day the West Central Women’s Resource Centre is open, we can see up to 100 women walk through our doors. Women from myriad 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 9 PM. 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 revolve around a man’s experience of homelessness. As a result, women are falling through the cracks.

The three downtown shelters are doing incredible and meaningful work; however, women often don’t feel safe going there. Whether the risks are perceived or real, they are genuine 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 End Homelessness Winnipeg is leading that work. 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 that Winnipeg’s efforts to address homelessness include a gender-based approach to prevent these individuals from falling through the cracks.

We believe everyone should have access to housing, safety, dignity and warmth. Thanks to our incredible partners, our city has a little more of each.

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