WINNIPEG — COVID-19 has had a major impact on Manitobans experiencing homelessness and struggling with food security.
In response, The West Central Women’s Resource Centre started a van patrol designed to meet the needs of people struggling during the pandemic.
“Instead of expecting them to come to us, with the difficulties that the pandemic brings, and our concerns with space and distancing in our building, we have decided to mobilize our services through our outreach van,” said Mareike Brumelli, director of community services.
The van patrol runs seven days a week and staff hand out water, hot meals, and hygiene and harm reduction supplies.
Brumelli said the patrol was set up and funded through COVID-19 relief funds, but the funds are running out, and the van patrol is at risk of being put in park permanently.
“We are looking for more support from our community and our donors to make sure that we can continue the programming,” said Brumelli.
“We started it as a temporary solution, but it’s clear it’s a service that will be needed.”
The West Central Women’s Resource Centre started a fundraising campaign in the spring to secure more money for the van program.
Deena Brock, provincial coordinator for The Manitoba Association of Women’s Shelters said, in Manitoba, shelters within family violence agencies receive core funding through the Family Violence Prevention Program, but that funding hasn’t increased in 14 years.
“If (The West Central Women’s Resource Centre) is not able to provide that service, that’s a bad situation for people that are out there,” said Brock.
“Especially the ones that are living sort of hand to mouth, and jumping from home to home or living on the street.”
CTV reached out to the province for a comment but did not receive a reply.
Brock said West Central van patrol has identified a huge gap in services that are needed.
Brumelli said the van patrol didn’t exist before the pandemic, but it needs to continue when COVID is behind us.
“It’s not going to be a pandemic only problem, and we just want to make sure we can continue this program into the future,” said Brumelli.
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