Housing and Homelessness in Winnipeg

Homelessness in Winnipeg: Gimme shelter

This is the third article in a seven-part series exploring the state of homelessness in Winnipeg. http://mytoba.ca/news/homelessness-in-winnipeg-gimme-shelter/


During a 16 month period from 2013-2014, a research project titled System Pathways into Youth Homelessness was conducted by Resource Assistance for Youth, The Social Planning Council of Winnipeg and The University of Winnipeg. The research project sought to identify and examine youth’s interactions with government systems and analyze how these system interactions impacted youth homelessness.


System Pathways Into Youth Homelessness

In Winnipeg, community-based youth serving agencies have raised serious concerns about young people who are becoming homeless due to numerous systems-based issues that are beyond the control of the youth themselves and the agencies supporting them. Researchers and policy experts across Canada have stated that to prevent and end youth homelessness, there is a need to understand the “systems” that lead youth into and out of homelessness.

The University of Winnipeg (U of W), The Social Planning Council of Winnipeg (SPCW) and Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY) partnered to conduct a research study to explore the systemic factors contributing to youth living on the street or in various types of insecure shelter for prolonged periods of time. Youth who have experienced homelessness were interviewed to develop timelines of their lives, identifying the government systems interactions they had. A majority of the youth (18 of 22) were involved with Child and Family Services, and instability and inadequate transitions from care and preparation for adulthood were said to be directly related to their later homelessness. Additional systemic barriers to sustainable income and housing were identified by the youth in their interactions with Justice, Employment and Income Assistance, and Health, Mental Health and Addictions Services.

Interviews were then held with government employees and staff of community-based youth serving organizations. Government systems serving youth who are homeless were analysed and case studies for each of them were developed. The research team identified specific policies and program gaps in government systems to be addressed if we wish to prevent or reduce youth homelessness in Winnipeg.

Below are links to the full report and individual case studies.

System Pathways Into Youth Homelessness Report 2014

Case Study - CFS 2014

Case Study - Housing 2014

Case Study - EIA 2014

Case Study - Justice 2014

Case Study - Health 2014

Right to Housing Annual Report

2013 was another busy year for R2H.  While there were some policy improvements to encourage the creation of affordable and social housing and some improvements in overall vacancy rates in Winnipeg rentals, there are still too many homeless people, too many households in core housing need and not enough social and affordable housing.

Right to Housing Annual Report 2013

National Housing Day in Canada, November 22, 2013

November 22 is recognized by the federal government and in communities across Canada, as a day to mark the importance of affordable housing in the health and lives of individual Canadians and in the population and economic health of the entire country.

Yet between 150,000– 300,000 people are homeless in Canada, and millions more are living in inadequate or unaffordable housing. Canada is the only major industrialized country without a national housing program. Aboriginal peoples, racialized communities, people with disabilities, women, seniors and other marginalized groups are disproportionately affected by housing insecurity.

Media Advisory November 18, 2013 (click to download pdf)

National Housing Day Primer November 2013 (click to download pdf)


 A Poem on Poverty by ETS (click to download PDF)


City of Winnipeg, Housing Policy

Housing Committee Presentation – July 15, 2013


The Social Planning Council of Winnipeg commends The City for taking the initiative to develop a new housing policy. We think it is important that the City will renew its commitment to enabling communities to develop and implement their own housing renewal initiatives. The strength, and greatest success of the previous housing policy, has been its capacity building within inner city communities. READ MORE


State of Homelessness in Canada 


 The State of Homelessness in Canada: 2013 is the first extensive Canadian report card on homelessness. It report what we know about homelessness in Canada -  the historical, social and economic context in which it has emerged. The report has useful demographic features of the situation people face and potential solutions. The State of Homelessness provides a starting point to inform the development of a consistent, evidence-based approach towards ending homelessness.

 The authors recommend a national count and for a national data base which have already been attempted and would likely be ineffective. The Federal; government is sponsoring a Homeless Individuals and Family Information System (HIFIS) already which has had limited success.

 What is really needed is a national strategy on affordable housing coupled with community leadership on actions to address homelessness - income, housing and supports.

In from the Margins, Part II: Reducing Barriers to
Social Inclusion and Social Cohesion

 In December 2009, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology reported on “social inclusion and cohesion in Canada.” The report,  In from the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness, was a landmark effort to expose poverty in Canada and recommend what could be done to end poverty. 

 A follow up report, In from the Margins, Part II: Reducing Barriers to Social Inclusion and Social Cohesion, has been released. This report identifies ongoing barriers to inclusion and offers 39 recommendations on how to make Canada more inclusive and cohesive. Based on research and testimony by witnesses, the committee identified ongoing barriers to inclusion and offered recommendations to make Canada more inclusive and cohesive.


 “No one in Canada should feel excluded,” says the Honourable Art Eggleton, the committee’s deputy chair. “We must ensure that our population is more engaged and participating in improving our communities and thereby our country.” (Eggleton was in Winnipeg last November – his comments on poverty can be found on www.spcw.mb.ca )


For more detail on the situation faced by people in Winnipeg see ‘A Place to Call Home’ in the Report section.

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Public Concern Divided on Homelessness


WINNIPEG: While public concern about homelessness continues to be high, that concern is split among women and men, where people live and what experiences they have had with poverty.


According to the Probe Research Poll conducted for the Social Planning Council, almost 40% of the respondents said they were ‘strongly concerned’ with homelessness in Winnipeg. Almost 30% said they were ‘moderately concerned’. Only 34% said they were ‘less concerned’.


Women, inner city residents and those living on less than $30,000 a year were more concerned with homelessness.


“When we asked people what they thought were the causes of homelessness, we found a high level of misunderstanding. A quarter of the responses pointed to substance abuse or mental illness as the causes - only about 10% said the basic causes were a lack of affordable housing and poverty,” says Christina Maes Nino, Policy Analyst with SPCW. “While levels of addiction and mental illness are higher among those experiencing chronic homelessness, most people without a place to call home became homeless because they couldn’t afford the rent.”


Those who identified affordable housing as the central problem, were mainly women, core area residents and those who were strongly concerned with homelessness.


Over 400 people need emergency shelter every night in Winnipeg. An SPCW report, A Place to Call Home, published last year, said that there was a 14% increase in the number of Winnipeggers who needed emergency shelter from 2008 to 2011.


The city-wide omnibus poll was conducted by Probe Research in the fall. 600 respondents were called and with 95% certainty, the results were within +/- 4 percentage points of what they would have been if the entire adult population of Winnipeg was interviewed.



Contact: Dennis Lewycky, Executive Director of the SPCW - cell 204 793 3289

See below to view the Probe Research Poll Report


The Social Planning Council of Winnipeg (SPC) is a non-profit membership-based organization in the voluntary sector. We are committed to providing leadership in social planning and effecting social policy changes that help create a caring and inclusive community. The SPC works with diverse communities, including policy-makers, funding agencies, service providers, ethno-cultural and Aboriginal groups, and the general public in Winnipeg to:

  • Identify and assess community issues, needs, capacities, and resources
  • Develop and promote policy and program options to policy-makers;
  • Support community groups and the voluntary human service sector;
  • Raise community awareness of, and provide voice to, social issues and human service needs, social policy options, and service delivery alternatives; and
  • Facilitate communication and collaboration among government, business, labour, the voluntary sector and grassroots communities;


The SPC has an extensive history of working in partnership on the development, implementation, evaluation and coordination of community projects. Collaborative partnerships, capacity building and community development approaches currently govern Social Planning Council’s approach to its mandate.


The organization is governed by a 15 member Board of Directors and has about 150 active members. A staff of four is located in Winnipeg’s centre. Most of the funding for the SPCW comes from the United Way of Winnipeg.


Click here for a copy of the News Release

Click here for a copy of the Probe Poll

The Sinclair Project - How the Province is Dealing with Homelessness

CBC’s Terry MacLeod interviews Minister of Housing and Community Development, Kerri Irvin-Ross, on what the Provincial Government is doing about homelessness in Manitoba.

Click here to view the website


CBC News – Homelessness in Winnipeg

While some people are raising awareness of homelessness by creating public events, others in the city are helping people without a home on a daily basis. The Social Planning Council is tracking homelessness and supporting the agencies who are on the front line of service and advocacy.


Homelessness Awareness Week

A number of organizations have come together to plan events for a first ever Homelessness Awareness Week in Winnipeg, beginning September 24th.  The purpose of these activities is to raise public awareness.

Awareness is important, and something the Social Planning Council has been engaged in for the past 93 years. Because of involvement of the Downtown BIZ, this event brings a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the ‘unusual suspects’ – leaders and staff of corporations and downtown businesses.

It is also important to ask ourselves and people involved in planning such an event what we want the public to be aware of. Some are going to be saying they want to expose that people are living in poverty and without a home. Others are talking about what can be done to end homelessness and what many organizations and people are currently doing to reduce poverty and homelessness.

From the Social Planning Council’s perspective, it is critical for the public to understand that homelessness is a social phenomenon – it is the failure of society to provide safe, accessible and healthy housing for everyone. Of course it is individuals who experience homelessness, and every individual has unique circumstances and different kinds of experiences, but we must make Winnipeggers aware that our society has the capacity and resources to meet the housing, income and support needs of our citizens, but we choose not to. Whether individuals are unemployed, living with a disability, struggling with addictions, or have faced trauma and tragedy in their life, a home provides a place for people to be safe and supported. This is why housing is a both a basic need and a human right.

There are many admirable efforts going on in Winnipeg to deal with the homeless crisis. They are providing emergency beds, creating housing options, advocating for access to rental accommodation and providing a range of personal supports. These organizations and advocates know the problems of and solutions to homelessness.

At one level, they know that more affordable housing, person-centred support programs and improved incomes are the essentials of eliminating homelessness. At deeper levels, the solutions are more complicated and interconnected. At these levels, there are issues of coordination of action, involvement of stakeholders, building public support, balancing government and community action and, ultimately, making decisions about who will pay and for what.

We hope that this week of awareness stimulates a response to homelessness, not just talk. We hope that everyone asks the executives who sleep out for a night what they are going to do to end homelessness. We hope Winnipeggers question and challenge us at the Social Planning Council on what we are doing, not just saying.

In the end, let’s all keep in mind the people who don’t have a bed, or even a sleeping bag, to go to each night. It’s time they did!


Homeless People - Victims of Social Profiling - July 17, 2012 via The Homeless Hub

Social profiling refers to the use of a person’s social status (in this case, their homelessness) by police or security services as a key factor in determining whether or how to enforce laws. The underlying principle of social profiling is that in understanding encounters between the police and homeless persons, it is their status of being homeless, real or presumed, rather than their criminality, that leads to the application of specific measures in a disproportionate manner.

Learn more about Social Profiling and Homelessness

Does Policy Matter when Politics Decide? – June 21, 2012

In a room of ‘community stakeholders,’ the solutions for Winnipeg’s housing challenges seem simple. Though it is not their job to know what works in other cities, and though they barely have time to do all of the work they are mandated to do, never mind research and policy analysis work, the community groups being consulted for the review of Winnipeg’s Housing Policy knew what could work to revitalize inner city neighbourhoods, develop more affordable housing, and reduce homelessness.

The lingering concern among community groups lies in whether or not these tangible and practical solutions will be considered, and how they will be implemented. It is unclear if the solutions being put forward by the community are similar to, or even compatible with, the solutions that the private sector or government stakeholders suggested. Without dialogue, understanding of the various points of view will have to be sorted out and prioritized by the consultants and City of Winnipeg Housing staff.

The public portion of the consultation will be held at the Millennium Library on June 27 from 6:30-9:00pm. We believe it is important to attend and ensure the community solutions do not get watered down by political interests.

To see the Social Planning Council’s Recommendations for the housing policy, click here.

To see what issues were discussed at the stakeholder consultation focus group, facilitated and recorded by MNP LLP, click here.

Minor Consultation for a Major Issue – June 16, 2012

The City of Winnipeg is reviewing its housing policy that has not been updated since 2000. Consultants from MNP (formerly Meyers Norris Penney) have been hired to consult the public.

It is extremely important that the City update its housing policy. There is such a shortage of affordable and accessible housing that thousands of people in Winnipeg are living unsafe and unhealthy conditions. For those working in the community, news stories of people living without running water or working furnaces in Winnipeg are, sadly, unsurprising. While the provincial government is trying to meet some of this need, the municipal and federal governments are doing virtually nothing.

However, it seems the City is not genuine in hearing from Winnipeggers about the housing situation and even less interested in hearing about what the city should do to meet the housing needs of its residents. While Our Winnipeg, the City’s long term plan states that the City is committed to collaborative implementation that is inclusive, transparent, accessible and meaningful for everyone, the consultants have only invited a select group of organizations to be interviewed, there is virtually no promotion of the public event and with only a few weeks before a report is to be submitted. There is no public information available on the consultation or the policy review.

According to the consultants, the “consultation includes interviews with partners in government, community groups (e.g., neighbourhood development groups, not for profits with an interest in housing, etc.), industry groups (e.g., developers, architects, real estate, etc.) and the public.”

However, there are only a few opportunities for input. One focus group has been held, another is planned for Thursday, June 21st and a public meeting is supposedly planned for June 27th – but none of these are publicly promoted.

We think it is important that a full range of organizations dealing with the housing crisis be involved in this consultation and to press the City of Winnipeg to take a more responsible and proactive role in dealing with our housing needs. Contact the consultants or the Policy and Planning Department of the City of Winnipeg to get involved in this policy review.

Contact: Kathryn Graham, at  204.336.6243, 2500 - 201 Portage Ave. or go to there website: MNP

Winnipeg needs a plan to reduce homelessness - April 2012

On an average night in Winnipeg, about 350 people are sleeping at one of the city's homeless shelters. Estimates vary, but another 1,400 people, without a place to call home, are sleeping on the street, in temporary accommodation, or with a range of friends, relatives or mere acquaintances.

With so many people experiencing homelessness in some form, and so many agencies involved in assisting individuals and families, there is clearly a social problem that is not being adequately addressed in Winnipeg.

The Social Planning Council has compiled a brief report on people who don't have a fixed address in Winnipeg. The report highlights what organizations are doing to provide a temporary place to stay and makes recommendations on what can be done to assist people experiencing homelessness.

You can view a copy of this report here.

Posted by David Allan on
As a homeless man staying in the Salvation Army and Sialom for over a year. I can tell you first hand I am clean, sober and in active recovery. What I deal with day to day is a horror show. EIA workers ( I am on a eia disability) that treat me with contempt and distrust. Lack of housing (eighteen month weighting lists for bed bug infested manitoba housing). A lack of grace or concern from local, provincial and federal governments. And the general public who see us all as drug addicts and reprobates. I have been out activley searching for housing for days and I have found nothing. With EIA rates frozen for twenty years of so. It is forcing us even if we do find something, into neglagible unhealthy living situations that furthur debilitate us and add to more dysfunction and hopelessness. I also deal with social agencies set up to "help" the poor that are more interested in government funding than they are the actual individuals in crisis. I don't know what to do or were to go. As my own family has turned there back on me because of my long term battle with bi-polar and substance abuse. Which I again reaffirm that I am clean and sober and active in twelve step groups. I need serious help to find a safe place to live. I don't know were to go. As I write this letter from Sara Riel, an agency I went to to help me with safe housing. The focus has been more on employent and ushering me into courses to gain funding than actually helping me with housing.

David Jonathan Allan
Posted by Tracey Ferguson on
Hello - I'm so glad to have found your website and to learn about your organization. I share your concerns about homelessness. My son has been close to homelessness and it really doesn't take much for someone to experience this. We really need more funding for social housing. I wrote to the new Federal Minister in charge of infrastructure on this urgent need for new social housing.

I have a disabling condition so I'm limited in terms of being able to attend events and meetings but I would still like to be involved in any way that I'm able. Please put me on your mailing list.

Also, I understand the NDP provincial government has not put much into social housing. That is disappointing. Like I say, I'd like to be involved and do anything I can. Thank you.
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