November 18, 2020
Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg MB –The Manitoba NDP is calling on the province to work with shelters and non-profits to develop a comprehensive COVID strategy to keep Manitobans without permanent housing safe. Frontline services, shelters, drop-in centres and detox facilities are struggling to meet staffing requirements due to COVID and have had to reduce capacity to follow public health guidelines. We need investments from the province to ensure services continue.
“We’ve heard reports that shelters have had to turn people away because they do not have the staffing or resources to give people the help they need during the pandemic,” said NDP Critic for Mental Health and Addictions, Bernadette Smith. “This poses a serious health risk to the homeless population and our community. As the nights get colder and the case counts increase, the Pallister government needs to step up and ensure every Manitoban has a safe place to sleep during the pandemic.”
After years of cutting affordable housing units and dragging their heels to fund expansions at organizations like Main Street Project, Conservative cuts have made life harder for families experiencing poverty. Stay at home orders have put women and children living in domestic violence situations at risk of increased harm. Rather than work proactively to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by increasing access to safe housing, the province is skipping ahead to a last resort.
Smith called on the Pallister government to develop a winter COVID strategy for Manitobans without shelter and vulnerable families:
• Flow promised funding for Main Street Project’s expansion and invest in more emergency shelter beds and isolation units;
• Re-instate the moratorium on evictions so that families can stay safe at home;
• Work with organizations to develop and fund increased staffing at sites that support vulnerable Manitobans;
• Recruit and train staff to ensure essential health services can continue to operate through the pandemic;
• Work with the City of Winnipeg to provide and maintain clean, safe public washrooms; and
• Ensure all staff at front line organizations have access quality PPE.
“Now is the time to do more than just react – they need to take preventive steps to keep vulnerable Manitobans safe throughout the winter,” said Smith. “We know the winter months bring increased risk and COVID only makes things worse. The province needs to immediately develop a plan to keep vulnerable Manitobans without housing safe.”