A new round of frigid temperatures is coming to Winnipeg later this week. The deep freeze has advocates for the city’s homeless population concerned about their safety.
More Winnipeggers seem to be accessing safe spaces than huddling up in bus shelters this season, but that certainly doesn’t include all unhoused people trying to survive the harsh winter, Kris Clemens of End Homelessness Winnipeg told 680 CJOB.
“That’s thanks to extended outreach as well as additional emergency beds and warming spaces that we have in Winnipeg this winter, but with ridership so down on Winnipeg Transit — to about half of what it was pre-COVID — the shelters still remain an inviting option for some folks.”
Clemens is concerned for the people who are unwilling to access safe warming spaces, for myriad reasons, and are risking the elements.
“It can just be related to past negative experiences in shelters, concerns about safety and theft, concerns about crowdedness, noise — accessibility challenges given the high rate of disabilities among those who are experiencing homelessness.”
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means staffing issues are touching her sector, too, Clemens said. She’s hoping that won’t affect how many people they’re able to serve.
“Agencies are trying to work together, trying to address this, through some kind of temporary solution but it could create a critical situation because the shelters are so busy,” she said.
“If there’s not enough staff to support the individual staying there, it might create a dangerous both for the people who work there and the people trying to access a warm place they can sleep.”