Micro-suite apartment building to provide dignified homes with on-site supports in Winnipeg

Construction starts this summer on a modern, dignified and supportive living space designed to help more Manitobans out of addictions and homelessness.

A partnership between the Pollard family and all three levels of government will give people experiencing homelessness an affordable housing solution in Winnipeg’s Centennial area. 

The Pollard family’s Home First Winnipeg, a not-for-profit charitable corporation created to provide affordable housing for Winnipeg’s homeless population, spearheaded micro-suite project.

“We’ve done a great job in the shelter environment in this city in the last little while,” John Pollard, co-CEO of Pollard Banknote and president of Home First, said at a news conference Friday.

But it’s not like having a home, he said.

“You go there and they kick you out at eight in the morning. It’s not your home … and we need homes.”

The $8-million joint venture will include contributions from all levels of government as well as $3.9 million from the Pollard family.

The federal and provincial governments will provide more than $1.1 million through the 2019 national housing strategy’s Canada-Manitoba Housing Agreement. The $450-million, 10-year bilateral agreement was created to build, repair and protect social and community housing.

A grant of $100,000 from the federal homelessness strategy and a $100,000 City of Winnipeg capital grant will also be provided. 

In addition, $800,000 will come from the Shared Health priorities bilateral agreement.

Shared Health will provide operational funding, including employment and income assistance shelter and meal benefit payments, the Canada-Manitoba housing benefit rent subsidy and money from the mental health and addictions bilateral agreement.

“Our government recognizes that ensuring housing for individuals and families vulnerable to homelessness is a complex issue that requires collaboration across all levels of government, stakeholders and community,” said Families Minister Rochelle Squires, who’s also responsible for accessibility.

Each micro-suite will have a private bathroom and small kitchen space, as shown in this plan of a typical suite by Prairie Architects. (Prairie Architects)

The Home First Winnipeg project will be a three-storey building at 390 Ross Ave. with 47 micro apartments for people experiencing homelessness, struggling with addictions and/or mental health issues or fleeing domestic violence. The building includes 15 units with accessible design for people with disabilities.

The project is guided by a housing first philosophy that seeks to get vulnerable people housed first and then offer other assistance. Residents won’t be required to live a sober lifestyle, but there will be mental health, addictions support and recovery staff on site 24/7. These additional services are known as wrap-around support.

The building will be fenced and landscaped with a community garden and patio.

While each resident will have an apartment with a bathroom, as well as a stovetop, sink and fridge, the building is designed with shared living space, with a commercial kitchen and dining areas on the main floor, as well as a living room, TV and game rooms. There will also be a round room for Indigenous cultural activities.

End Homelessness Winnipeg has reported that more than 70 per cent of the people experiencing homelessness are Indigenous. 

Dan Vandal, MP for St. Boniface-St. Vital, said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to help vulnerable people in the community with basic housing.

“This pandemic has really underscored the importance of the home as a sanctuary in times of crisis,” Vandal said.

Between April 2020 and March 2021, the Department of Families and various community organizations housed 1,746 vulnerable people experiencing various levels of homelessness, the province said.

“We believe that while everyone deserves an opportunity to succeed, it starts and it begins with having an affordable place to call home — a place that’s safe and secure,” said Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary to the federal minister of families, children and social development.