Winnipeg councillor calls for clean-up of homeless camps near MMF building
Winnipeg councillor Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) is calling for the city to send crews to clean up illegal homeless encampments.Browaty said the encampment near the Disraeli Freeway is simply not safe for the growing group of people living there. “Just the number of fires that end up happening — there’s no building codes of any sort there. During COVID-19, people are living in quarters that are far closer, and it’s not necessarily the same family unit every night,” Browaty told 680 CJOB.“Some of it is tents, but also a lot of it is shopping carts and tarps, and really unsafe living quarters.“It’s actually extended across the Disraeli, so it’s on the south side of Disraeli now as well, and it’s really growing out of control now.”
Browaty said city council was notified by the Manitoba Metis Federation’s David Chartrand on Tuesday that there have been significant numbers of people from that camp harassing MMF employees as they enter and leave the organization’s head office nearby.
Chartrand told 680 CJOB it’s become a safety issue for his staff as well as the people in the camps.“Yesterday, one of our staff found a knife on top of her car. Our female staff are afraid now to go to their cars… we’ve had to hire extra security to walk them out.”Chartrand said he’s also seen many members of the camp using drugs openly, as well as drug deals taking place, and physical violence.“I am very concerned about them. These are human beings. They didn’t grow up to be addicts.“They didn’t grow up to be homeless, but situations have led them there. “I also have to protect the staff. Every day we’ve been… not pushing them away, but it’s getting to a point where people are afraid to work here now. It’s getting bad.”Chartrand said a recent job applicant turned down a position due to safety concerns after seeing the situation first-hand.He said there’s no simple solution, but that all stakeholders — government or otherwise — will need to work together on a ‘wrap-around’ approach if they want to make a difference.“You can’t just take it and put it somewhere else — that’s not the solution,” he said. “But it can’t stay the way it is and continue the way it is.“If you have an addiction, we’ve got to deal with the addiction. You can’t just take someone who’s taking needles every day, or crack cocaine, and say ‘here’s a house, now you’re OK’.“You have so many silos saying, ‘it’s not my jurisdiction, it’s not my jurisdiction’… but it’s everybody’s jurisdiction.”
According to Browaty, there are local agencies such as the Main Street Project that have risen to the challenge presented by the novel coronavirus, and have made it possible for Winnipeggers to seek shelter while remaining socially distanced.“They have added isolation spaces and accelerated new beds to the point where there is no reason people need to live in these encampments,” he said. A woman living in the camp told Global News that she considers the encampment to be her home and has no intention to leave.“I feel safe, I feel comfortable… and you know what — it’s family.”The woman, who Global News has decided not to identify for security reasons, said she doesn’t expect the city to take any action to move the people in the camp, because if they had intended to do so, “that would have happened already, so it’s a waste of time.”
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