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Task force offers plan to house the homeless

Task force offers plan to house the homeless
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Read more about the Plan to End Homelessness in Winnipeg

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, May / June 2014

A task force that includes members of Winnipeg's business community and health and social service organizations has come up with a 10-year plan to end homelessness.

The Community Task Force to End Homelessness was struck 16 months ago by the Poverty Reduction Council, under the umbrella of the United Way, to review the plight of an estimated 350 people who sleep in one of the city's homeless shelters on any given night. On that same night, up to 1,000 people sleep in single-room occupancy hotels and 1,400 people stay with relatives, friends or in some form of temporary accommodation.

The end result is a call to action that draws from the best ideas across the country while keeping in mind Winnipeg's unique population and resources.

"We looked at cities across Canada, and will build on the good work being done by applying best practices to our city's own needs," said Cindy Coker, co-chair of the task force and Executive Director of SEED Winnipeg.

The report, released earlier this month, is based on four key elements: prevention, person-centred care, housing supply and data. The top recommendation is to create a non-profit organization to implement the report. Once that is done, the new entity would work to implement a total of 33 strategies over the first four years of the 10-year plan. Chief among those recommendations are proposals that would:

  • Enhance and encourage co-operation between various agencies and organizations that work with or support the homeless.
  • Take an inventory of existing shelter options for homeless people and increase the supply for affordable housing.
  • Encourage and support a "housing first" approach to providing shelter for homeless people. This philosophy essentially advocates for housing as an essential first step to a person improving their health and wellness. It differs from the traditional housing readiness model, which is based on the notion that a person must address issues like addiction or criminal activity before being able to access housing.

RĂ©al Cloutier, a task force member and Vice President and COO of the Winnipeg Health Region, said the report represents a good start to tackling a difficult problem. "Now the real work begins," Cloutier said. "We now have an opportunity to align policy and services to address this situation (homelessness). The Winnipeg Health Region is committed to working to achieve this outcome."

The effort to end homelessness is seamlessly intertwined with both the Region's plan to address health equity gaps, and its mission to provide health care to people living within Winnipeg and its surrounding communities. "It also helps us improve patient flow, as people who are homeless can be high users of Emergency services and when they are hospitalized, involve complex discharge plans that take a significant amount of time to plan and initiate," says Cloutier.

Wave: May / June 2014

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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