Winnipeg advocates call for 24-hour safe space in the city

Advocates in Winnipeg are renewing the call for a 24/7 safe space amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

As many shelters and drop in services have had to cut back services, Isabel Daniels told APTN News  that women, children and two-spirit people need a space now more than ever.

“They’re even more entrenched now in exploitation because there’s no place for them to go for even the basic needs of life. Even just to wash your hands never mind to take a shower,” she said.

Daniels has been advocating for a 24/7 safe space for several years. She is part of a sub-committee of volunteers who has appealed to all levels of government to help fund the space only to be denied, she told APTN.

There are two domestic violence shelters for women and children in the city and a handful of places people experiencing homeless can go to.

But Daniels said none of these are tailored to address the needs of sexually exploited adults.

“Domestic violence shelters do not accept women who are victims of exploitation because they are not victims of spousal abuse,” Daniels explained. “For homeless shelters a lot of our women don’t go there because they’re either further victimized in those shelters or they get ousted by other people.”

The sub-committee applied for funding last year through the federal government’s family violence prevention program but Daniels said they were told the project didn’t meet the criteria.

The space would aim to help women, children and 2SLGBTQ+ people who are living in volatile situations such as staying in drug houses or sex workers who are being abused by clients.

“These women are taking care of their children and they have these people inside their homes and these men may not be their partners but they sure as hell are beating them in front of their children, which is still family violence in my eyes,” said Daniels.

NDP MP Leah Gazan (Winnipeg Centre) is providing her support for the project.

During a virtual parliamentary meeting on Apr. 28, Gazan pressed the federal government to provide money for the space.

“The failure of the federal government to not only heed the calls to justice of the National Inquiry but also really appreciate the life and death matter that we’re face with in Winnipeg,” Gazan told APTN News.

“We will not stop until we get this space.”

Maryam Monsef, minister for Women and Gender Equality, would not commit to funding the shelter but said she would be happy to work with Gazan to address the need.

APTN reached out to Monsef’s office for further comment but did not receive one by publication time.

The need for a low-barrier shelter is one of the calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Daniels said without a safe space the cycle of violence with continue.

“This is generational trauma that we’re dealing with and if we don’t start helping women get off the street, if we don’t help them change their life we’re only going to see another generation of kids stuck in exploitation,” she said.

Reporter / Winnipeg

Brittany joined the APTN news team in October 2016. She is Ojibway and a member of the Long Plain First Nation in Manitoba. Before coming to APTN, she graduated with a joint degree in communications from the University of Winnipeg and Red River College.