Winnipeg looking to implement ‘housing first’ approach

Winnipeg’s preliminary budget is looking to move the city to a coordinated Housing First model, an approach that prioritizes housing someone experiencing homelessness immediately. Edward Djan has more.

Winnipeg’s preliminary budget is looking to move the city to a coordinated housing first model.

The approach is to prioritize housing someone experiencing homelessness immediately without any conditions, then to provide them with wrap-around supports.

The city’s preliminary budget looks to have an “aggressive housing first model.”

Initiatives meant to combat homelessness have not been allocated past 2024 in the budget. Mayor Scott Gillingham says this is to give the city, province and stakeholders time to come up with a strategy.

“Right now, where there are competing philosophies, we need to bring those better in line. There’s room, there’s space for various groups doing work to help those struggling with homelessness right now and take perhaps a bit of a different approach, but it still has to be coordinated,” said Gillingham.

Marion Willis, founder and executive director of St. Boniface Street Links says she has been using a modified version of Houston’s housing first model, and it’s proven successful.

“We’ve been housing through this model for the last three to four years that have transitioned people from encampments into La Salle which is our transitional program, into low barrier housing, into far better housing,” explained Willis.

Jino Distasio, a geography professor at the University of Winnipeg added, “Winnipeg has a real good network of organizations that have various housing first networks and formats. What we really need is some consistent funding and the three levels of government to commit to using housing first as the principal framework.

In a statement to CityNews, Minister of Housing, Addictions and Homelessness Bernadette Smith said, “We were elected to end chronic homelessness and I am committed to this goal. We’re working with community partners, including the City of Winnipeg, to get our relatives housed. I look forward to everyone’s contributions to this urgent priority.”

Gillingham adding, “Conversations with Minister Smith have been really good. The premier and I share the vision, as do many councillors to move to one coordinated plan, with a focus on housing first, to get people into housing with wrap-around supports.”

While there seems to be a willingness to work together on a more coordinated model to combat homelessness, advocates are hoping the model is results driven.

“I’d like to see the city move from funding outreach teams to actually funding the housing outcomes these teams are to create,” said Willis.

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