April 29, 2014 3:42 pm

Community groups aim to end homelessness in Winnipeg

Michael Tomkiewicz, at Winnipeg's Siloam Mission, gets dressed to go outside in extreme wind chills in December 2013.

Lorraine Nickel / Global News

WINNIPEG – Community activists unveiled a new strategy Tuesday targeting homelessness in Winnipeg. Organizers say the end goal is eliminating homelessness within ten years.

The United Way along with members of the private, public, and non-profit sector released a 67 page document detailing how to tackle homelessness in the city.

“Our plan contains a total of 33 specific strategies, grouped under goals in each of four focus areas,” said Cindy Coker, co-chair of the task force responsible for the plan.

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The four areas include prevention, care systems to help those with substance abuse issues and mental illnesses, an increase in safe, affordable housing and enhanced data collection.

The plan also calls for the creation of a central non-profit organization focused exclusively on ending homelessness. The task force hopes to have the organization up and running by fall 2014.

There are about 350 people in Winnipeg who use homeless shelters each night and between 700 and 1,000 people living in single person hotel rooms.

Using findings of the Housing First project as a foundation, the task force hopes to create 300 supportive housing units within the next three years.

“We know that the Housing First model has proved successful in other cities. These cities have seen the number of people who are chronically homeless drop,” said Rob Johnston, co-chair of the task force.

It’s uncertain where these homes will be built and who will pay for them but Johnston says plans will be formalized by the end of the year.

“We’ll need to attract funding. We’re fairly confident that the private sector will join us in raising capital. We’ll be talking to the governments about other possible solutions as well. But it will begin soon.”

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