A new project will hopefully go a tiny way to helping solve the homeless crisis in Winnipeg.
The Village Project is a 22-unit, communal village aiming to create immediate, safe and private housing for individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Winnipeg.
The project was developed after consultation with people living in encampments as well as Indigenous leaders.
Planning is being led by Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre and is supported by six other Indigenous organizations, including End Homelessness Winnipeg, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ Eagle Urban Transition Centre, Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg, Aboriginal Health & Wellness Centre, Ka Ni Kanichihk and Thunderbird House.
“I came here in ’83, and the change in terms of people homeless or living on the street has just been quite incredible, you know, huge numbers now,” Co-Chair of Thunderbird House Board, Damon Johnston said. “And the majority of those, close to 70 per cent are indigenous persons: First Nations, Metis, or Inuit.”
The Village is set to take over a vacant lot currently in between Thunderbird House and Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope on Main Street.
“All the units are modular recycled shipping containers, they’re being produced by Bison Container Homes, so they’re all shipping containers that are converted into fully functioning homes,” End Homelessness Winnipeg’s Housing Supply Manager, Lissie Rappaport, said.
“The physical materials are recycled shipping containers, but they’re going to look like real houses. They have siding, they have a front door, a window, a little porch.”
Rappaport noted the project already has City of Winnipeg zoning approval to build, and capital funding has been secured through the federal government’s Reaching Home strategy through End Homelessness Winnipeg.
However, funding for operational costs still needs to be secured.
“We’ve applied to the federal Rapid Housing Initiative for this funding,” Rappaport said. “If that’s successful we’ll be able to start construction right away, so right in February or March. If the timeline goes well we’re aiming to have the first tenants living there by June, with the full project completed by November of this year.”
The Village will also house a communal area where residents can cook together, hang out and receive culturally relevant supports and healing opportunities on-site.
“The focus is really on providing people cultural supports, as well as help support well-being life skills to be able to move forward on their healing journey,” Rappaport said.
“It’s low-barrier housing, so focus with a harm reduction model. People can be wherever they are using drugs or alcohol. And that’s really filling a gap for housing needs here in Winnipeg right now.”