A shelter, warming centre opens its doors for the winter season in Winnipeg

As the winter season swings to lower temperatures, a shelter in Winnipeg is opening its doors to the city’s most vulnerable population.

A pop-up shelter on 604 St. Mary’s Road is offering beds to sleep in and a warm place to stay for those struggling with homelessness, addictions, and mental health struggles. The shelter, run by St. Boniface Street Links, operates inside the old St. Vital Civic Centre.

According to executive director Marion Willis, the space is open to up to 25 people on a daily basis. The shelter was up and running last year as well. This year, it opened its doors on Monday and is expected to run until the weather gets better.

“I think (having)… 24/7 spaces, well-located, in neighbourhoods where there are concentrations of homeless people, is a way to modernize our shelter system. it’s also a way to inspire community support,” said Willis.

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She added that the idea of having a shelter that is open throughout the day, seven days a week at a time when the weather is well below freezing point helps to inspire people to come together. That community support translates to more compassion for those less fortunate, she said.

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“When (the) community feels some kind of ownership and involves themselves, it does a lot to reconcile the difference. Now you have the community taking the time to learn, to understand being compassionate and being on the helping side.”

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Willis noted that the building will provide occupancy to up to 25 people every night. She said that people won’t be asked to leave in the morning. In fact, for those who stay, having a cup of coffee and talking about the supports that can be provided for them is what separates this shelter from the rest, she said.

Support services, provided through St. Boniface Street Links within the shelter, include access to addictions support, mental health supports, and income and housing aid. To Willis, things like these are a step forward.

“We really are a 24/7 safe space that also has a shelter function as well. It is going to be our goal to really work with people who want to be linked to income supports and housing. It’s going to be our goal to try to help people become a little more stable,” said Willis.

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“We also anticipate that every single person that comes to our spot here will get linked to income support… it would be pretty lofty to say that we’re going to house them all. That’s the goal though.”

A plan on how other front-line organizations is dealing with extreme weather for those in need is outlined by the End Homelessness Winnipeg’s Winter Weather Response plan, released for the 2022 to 2023 winter season. it includes a list of emergency shelters, warming centres, and safe spaces that can be accessed for the winter months. These include:

  • Main Street Project at 637 Main Street.
  • Siloam Mission at 300 Princess Street.
  • Ndinawe: Tina’s Safe Haven at 472 Selkirk Avenue.
  • Rossbrook House at 658 Ross Avenue.
  • North Point Douglas Women’s Centre at 221 Austin St. North.
Click to play video: 'Winnipeg, St. Boniface Street Links working to transform surplus building into extreme weather shelter'

Winnipeg, St. Boniface Street Links working to transform surplus building into extreme weather shelter

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