A new pilot project with local homeless outreach groups collaborating with the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS), is aiming to help unsheltered people stay warm and do so safely.
The WFPS is handing out 15 burn bins to various homeless camps around Winnipeg this week. It’s an initiative that Kris Clemens of End Homelessness Winnipeg says is all about harm reduction.
“It’s designed to be a harm reduction initiative that can help both protect individuals who are unsheltered and sleeping in encampments from the effects of the cold weather — frostbite, hypothermia — but also from the risks of open fires,” Clemens told Global Winnipeg.
“Each year, fires get out of control at outdoor and encampment locations, and this can destroy people’s belongings and cause severe injury and even death.”
Clemens said the project is a standard, city-wide solution that gives people a safer alternative for open fires. In February of last year, one person was killed when a fire tore through an encampment and caused an explosion near the Disraeli Freeway.
Clemens said street outreach work, as well as the addition of more warming spaces in the city, has helped reduce the number of encampments in Winnipeg.
“Also, with the evolution of the pandemic, and education on COVID prevention and mitigation in the shelter system, there’s been some effective outreach to help address concerns people might have had accessing shelters due to the risk of COVID,” she said.
“That being said, there are still people sleeping in encampments and unsheltered locations across the city, and for these individuals, fire is an ongoing safety risk.”
In addition to distributing the burn barrels, which will be done by WFPS in partnership with the Main Street Project, firefighters will provide encampment residents with fire safety training and fire prevention tips for using the barrels Tuesday afternoon.