Homeless in Winnipeg aren’t sure where to turn for lodging

People who have no place to call home are struggling to come up with a place to stay after a Winnipeg council bylaw prohibits them from living under, or near bridges.

“It doesn’t rain under the bridge and it doesn’t snow under the bridge,” says Billy Rivers. “So a little bit of safety and security I guess that way.”

As of Oct. 1, the city made it illegal for people to camp or have fires next to Winnipeg’s bridges.

The city says it made the move after several fires have been set over the years.

Now the council says it’s unsafe for people to live there.

People in the camp say police have come by telling them they have a week to find a new home.

One man, who didn’t want to be identified, says he can’t go to a shelter because he doesn’t have identification.

People who advocate on behalf of people who are without safe lodging agree with the city that living under a bridge is a safety hazard – but says the city needs to come up with better long-term solutions.

“The greatest need is affordable safe housing, barrier-free housing, housing that supports people with mental illnesses or living addictions,” says Jason Whitford, CEO of End Homelessness Winnipeg. “That’s one of the biggest needs. There’s always been a great need for Indigenous-led resources, approaches, organizations, holistic programming that offers sensitive to the needs of the realities of Indigenous people and their realities.”

APTN News asked Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman for an interview on the issue but he wasn’t available – instead, a statement was sent. The city says it’s working with groups including End Homelessness Winnipeg to find solutions.

“We will continue to work closely with our network of supports to help relocate these residents or to assist them with accessing transitional housing if they wish,” says city spokesperson David Driedger. “The City will continue to cover the initial cost of transitional housing for residents who choose this option.”

Indigenous Peoples struggle with finding stable housing more than any other segment in Canada. More than 70 to 80 per cent of people on the streets are First Nation, Inuit or Métis.

He also says roughly 50 per cent of those people have been exposed to the child welfare system.

According to End Homelessness Winnipeg, there are roughly 100 homeless camps in Winnipeg.

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