Ottawa putting almost $350K into Brandon, Man. housing and handivan transit

Ottawa is putting hundreds of thousands in cash toward improving housing and extending accessible transit in Brandon and area.

On Tuesday, Chris Bittle, parliamentary secretary to the minister of housing, infrastructure and communities, announced that $348,161 out of the federal Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy program will help repair 26 affordable apartments and three emergency homeless shelters in Brandon and purchase new, accessible vehicles for two handivan services.

The apartments and shelters are being repaired because of water damage, so Bittle said the funds will be used to stabilize them and reroute water to “prevent further structural failures and increase building safety.”

Brandon Mayor Jeff Fawcett said about $100,000 will be carved out to repair the buildings.

Rushana Newman, executive director of the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation, said the cash injection will help prevent homelessness and ensure shelter stability.

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“The challenges of homelessness in Brandon have tragically surged threefold since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s evident that affordable housing is a pivotal solution to address homelessness,” she said.

Fawcett said that while repairing affordable housing and shelters doesn’t create new spaces to get people off the streets, it at least keeps more people from losing their home.

“When we’re in such a need, the last thing we need is for existing places to not be in service. So, it does keep us where we are — which is a minimum.”

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He added that Brandon has a higher number of people without a home, per capita, than Winnipeg. If Brandon were as big as Manitoba’s capital, he said “we’d have about 21,000 homeless people.”

Fawcett noted the city is continuing to work with other levels of government to enhance its services tackling homelessness.

Of the handivan services receiving funding, one is the non-profit organization Ste. Rose and District Handi-Van, and the other is the Town of Carberry and Municipality of North Cyrus-Langford Handivan service.

Both the mayor of Carberry, Ray Muirhead, and Kenra Moriaux, manager of Ste. Rose and District Handivan Inc., said they are grateful for the money.

“Public transit is very beneficial and crucial to the mobility impaired as well as several other community members who use it for shopping, medical appointments, excursions, etc., ” Muirhead said. “It helps to maintain an independent lifestyle.”

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Moriaux said the funding “will allow us to continue providing transportation for all mobility-disadvantaged persons in our rural communities.”

Fawcett said the service will ensure people in rural communities will be able to live in their homes and commute to Brandon for health-care purposes as needed.

“Brandon is the service area,” he said. “It gives people the ability to stay in Carberry (for example), and be able to get back and forth — in a lot of cases — for appointments and health care.”

He said it is important to keep people in their homes and neighbourhoods where possible.

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