End Homelessness Winnipeg recently submitted feedback to the Manitoba Police Commission’s call for recommendations to make downtown Winnipeg a safer place, and to the City of Winnipeg’s engagement towards developing a Community Safety Strategic Action Plan designed to make communities safe.
End Homelessness Winnipeg’s experience working across sectors can greatly inform work to improve community safety. The organization leads tables of change with cross-sector representation. Sectors include community agencies, public services, private sector, all levels of government including Indigenous governments, and individuals with lived or living experience of homelessness. End Homelessness Winnipeg develops community-based, collaborative responses to local issues related to homelessness. Partners in this work include Winnipeg Police Services (WPS), Winnipeg Fire & Paramedic Services (WFPS), and Manitoba Justice. Based on these experiences, End Homelessness Winnipeg has offered two key recommendations to improve community safety in Winnipeg:
- Fund essential, community-based services such as outreach vans, community patrols and 24/7 Safe Spaces to improve public safety.
- Support and encourage collaborations between WPS and partners including other City of Winnipeg Departments, WFPS, outreach workers, health providers and mental health services to coordinate appropriate responses to individuals who may be experiencing a health or personal crisis but are not posing a threat to public safety.
Read on for two recent examples of End Homelessness Winnipeg’s cross-sector work to improve safety in our city:
Strategy to Support Unsheltered Winnipeggers
In June 2019, the City of Winnipeg issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a contractor to remove bulky waste including temporary shelters found on public property. A coordinated community response called for the RFP to be pulled. Mayor Brian Bowman responded by rescinding the RFP. He tasked End Homelessness Winnipeg to bring stakeholders together to develop an alternative strategy.
End Homelessness Winnipeg brought together a committee to implement a short-term response, and longer-term strategy, to support unsheltered Winnipeggers. The group includes representation from community organizations and homeless-serving agencies, along with City of Winnipeg Public Works, Community Services, WPS, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA), and people with lived experience of homelessness.
In just a few months, this group has collaboratively implemented a short-term response. Previously, when the City of Winnipeg’s 311 service received calls about unsheltered people, the first response was to alert WPS or tell residents to call WPS to respond. Now, the first response is directed to community outreach workers with Main Street Project, who connect with the people to ensure they have access to services. This strategy reduces calls on WPS to respond in situations where they are not required. The collaboration maintains open and ongoing communication, so that if safety concerns arise, WPS is able to respond.
Extreme Weather Response
End Homelessness Winnipeg also chairs and convenes the Extreme Weather Response Committee, which includes representation from WPS, WFPS, community agencies, WRHA, and City of Winnipeg departments. This coordinated response group allows all parties to collectively support people who are experiencing homelessness and at risk of exposure to extreme weather.
Working collaboratively across sectors has helped to ensure Winnipeggers who are outside during extreme weather can be connected to available services. WPS are equipped with resource guides and community connections, should they see an individual struggling outside. Community agencies, similarly, can rely on WPS and WFPS when their services are needed to support community members. Despite the success we see from the Extreme Weather Response, community groups represented at this table are deeply under-resourced. These outreach providers require additional funds to be able to stay open longer – particularly during the cold weather season – and to add specialized staff including those with medical and mental health training.
Download the submission to the Manitoba Police Commission in .pdf format here.
Download the submission to the City of Winnipeg Community Safety Strategic Action Plan in .pdf format here.