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PUBLISHER Dorothy Dobbie, Pegasus Publications Inc.

DESIGN Cottonwood Publishing Services

EDITOR Joan Cohen



CONTRIBUTORS Hon. Deanne Crothers, Roger Currie, Tom Dercola, Dorothy Dobbie, Katherine Dueck, Myrna Driedger, Ian Leatt, Linda McIntosh, Gwen Repeta, Jo Simon, Tenille Sonnichsen, Dianne Szelag, Ross Thompson, Sherrie Versluis, Nathan Zassman

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Te Conservative Club of Winnipeg (Est. 1889)

One of the longest continually operating clubs in the British Commonwealth, with roots dating back 125 years.

Te club hosts luncheon meetings 10x per year, each featuring a guest speaker. Recent speakers have included:

M.P. Shelly Glover M.P. Steven Fletcher M.P. Lawrence Toet M.P. Joyce Bateman M.P. Jason Kenny MLA Brian Pallister

MLA Ralph Eichler MLA Myrna Driedger MLA Sid Green MLA Shannon Martin Sen. Terry Stratton David Chartrand

Arlene Wilgosh (WRHA) Col. Joel Ray Mayor Brian Bowman Mayor Sam Katz Dorothy Dobbie Fr. Sam Argenzianno

Contact Rob Harper at Gregory Burner, President

November 2015 3

We must create safe homes for these people

Continued from page 1

two years. “We have 75 beds, and when those are full, we often have as many as 30 more people waiting to get inside. I try to fit them all somewhere.” The folks she looks after are the least fortunate of the unfortunate. They are at the bottom of the barrel, with nowhere else to go and no way to cope. A mat on the floor is just about as low as you can go without staying outside in the cold. This is unacceptable as a minimum standard in a wealthy country such as ours. “How can we let this happen?” I asked in real outrage at the end of the tour. I was shaken by what I’d seen and emotionally bruised. “I don’t know,” Lisa answered. “The Main Street Project has been trying to deal with this for 43 years. And nothing has changed. We fight for funding every day.” She added, “Do you think it’s because nobody cares?” “Surely, they do care. It must be because they don’t know,” I answered. But upon reflection, I am not sure I am right. It is easier to not see these people, to pretend that everything is all right and the problem will solve itself.

And then a Pharon Hall, a homeless man who twice risked his own life to save another, comes along. Or a 10 p.m. tour of a facility by a bunch of us do-gooders out for a night of feeling good about ourselves. I don’t feel so good about myself anymore; what I have seen can never be erased until homelessness is ended in Winnipeg. I say again, there is no excuse for people to be home-

less in this most blessed of lands. When almost half a billion dollars can be spent to refurbish a police station, nobody will ever convince me that we don’t have, can’t find, the money to end homelessness.

Just the other day, the city of Medicine Hat announced Dorothy Dobbie

that it has become the first community in Canada to end homelessness, and if they can do it, then surely we can, too. And it makes good financial sense for all the bean counters out there: Medicine Hat says it costs $20,000 a year to house someone, when leaving them on the street can cost up to $100,000 a year. Emergen- cy room visits drop, police calls subside, agency administration costs dissipate. The agencies, the Main Street Project, the Salvation Army, the Siloam Mission and many others, are doing their best, but this is really not their problem – it is ours and it should be dealt with through the tax system and by governments. A minimum standard of shelter must be delivered and that minimum is vastly higher than a mat on a floor for a night.

Eliminating homelessness takes political will, and the impetus to make this happen

needs to come from us, the citizens – we need to fire up our politicians at all levels to make sure this disgraceful condition is resolved.

The Bell Hotel project could be our initial benchmark – and believe me, that is a pretty low benchmark (the rooms are Spartan and tiny); but it is a start, and at least the rooms have a door with a lock and a bathroom to bathe in and do your private business.

I am told that while we don’t have an exact count,

and anyway it varies, the number of people living on the streets is in the hundreds – maybe around 300 – cer- tainly not an overwhelming number. Creating 300 min- imum-standard living units would cost much less than refurbishing the police station or even the new Liquor Control-Lotteries Commission building. It’s all about priorities and this must be priority Number One.

Homelessness in Winnipeg

Here are some of the statistics about our homeless population that were gathered in 2011 by the Main Street Project.

• About one-third of the homeless were under 30.

• About 24 per cent had been diagnosed with mental illness (schizophrenia or bipolar disorder).

• The average length of time people had been homeless was four years; however, 23 per cent had been homeless more than five years. A minority, 15 per cent, had been homeless for fewer than six months and another 37 per cent had been homeless less than two years. About 10 per cent had been homeless 10 years of more.

• Almost 40 per cent were Caucasian or white. 56 per cent were Aboriginal. The balance was of other ethnicity.

• Almost 16 per cent had some sort of formal work, either full or part time.

• 40 per cent were high school graduates and another 12 per cent had college or university degrees or experience.

There are many reasons why people find themselves homeless, ranging from the stereo- typical drug and alcohol use (25 per cent) to inability to find the first and last months’ rent; inability to satisfy the landlords’ demands for references; evictions due to a wide variety of reasons; relationship breakups; family prob- lems; abusive boyfriends or parents; bedbugs in Manitoba housing units; a history of being in the care of Child and Family services; sud- den illness, the list goes on.

Inadequate housing and difficult access to housing is the number one reason for home- lessness, however. Those who are employed live at a bare subsistence level, and the meagre help they can glean from provincial welfare is insufficient to get other than slum housing or, at best, a bedbug-infested Manitoba housing unit.

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