Federal Conservative Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews stopped in at the Thompson Homeless Shelter, also known as the Nanatowiho Wikamik Homeless Shelter, at 115 Churchill Dr. on July 18 to announce a $200,000 contribution to the shelter.
The funding will be used for staffing, in order to keep four full-time employees and two part-timers. $140,000 will come from the Homeless Partnering Strategy (HPS) and the remaining $60,000 is coming from the Urban Aboriginal Strategy (UAS).
The federal government’s contribution should help to prevent a repeat of last fall, when the shelter saw a funding shortfall and was forced to cut their hours.
“This funding from the Government of Canada and the Province of Manitoba is so important for our shelter to continue operating on a 24/7 basis,” said Paullette Simkins, executive director of the Thompson Homeless Shelter, “our staff members are able to provide homeless shelter clients with much-needed support services and assistance.”
The HPS has been in effect since April 1, 2007 and as of July 9, 2012 has approved a total of 2,049 projects adding up to more than $693 million in funding to prevent and reduce homelessness in Canada.
Vacancy at the homeless shelter remains an issue, as the facility is only able to house 24 patrons, a number that Simkins says is just simply not enough for the number of homeless people in Thompson.
“I’m pretty confident that there is not going to be a shortfall this year,” said Simkins, “but this still doesn’t negate the fact that this facility is not big enough to house the homeless in this area. We realistically need at least double the space, in the winter we had to turn away at least 40 people.”
When asked about the issue of vacancy for the homeless in Thompson, Toews explains that the federal government stands as more of a funding body rather than a project co-ordinator.
“We partner with the province who has the primary responsibility for providing that type of housing, so in that sense we’re more of a funding agency,” said Toews, “but we want to make sure that money is being used properly when it is spent like this.”
Toews went on to explain that the federal government has given a good deal of funding to the province of Manitoba, specifically in various Winnipeg locations, for assisted living that has gone towards shelters on a more permanent basis.
“You look at a place like Thompson where a two-bedroom apartment costs around $1,000 a month, and that’s out of the reach of the people that the homeless shelter is providing service to,” said Toews, “so we have to look at alternatives and that’s part of our homeless strategy. Sometimes we work directly with municipalities, but most often we work directly through the province by providing them with funding through social transfers or specific funding for our homeless initiatives.”
The amount of funding allotted to the Thompson Homeless Shelter was determined through an application process, and Toews says that Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley’s department was made aware of the funding shortfall in Thompson and that it was likely considered in the application for a renewal in funding.