Winnipeg shelter expansion will mean more mental health, addictions services

A Winnipeg shelter that offers refuge for people struggling with addictions, mental health and homelessness is expanding.

Main Street Project received possession of the vacant Mitchell Fabrics building in Winnipeg’s north end on Oct. 8 and is currently fundraising part of the estimated $10-million needed to finish the project.

The federal government will provide some money through the National Co-Housing Investment Fund, through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

The decision to purchase the 3,344 square metre building will transform services the agency offers.

Rick Lees, executive director of Main Street Project says he’s excited for the potential this building has.

“We think this should be a landmark facility,” Lees said. “For far too long we’ve tended to push our marginalized folks back, where people can’t see them.”

Lees said he hopes this addition is something that people can point out and say “this is how our city looks after those who have trouble looking after themselves.”

The organization has been on the frontlines of addiction treatment and providing emergency shelter for 46 years.   Unlike other shelters in the city, it’s not a prerequisite to not be using to access the services they offer.

The current centre is only 195 square metres, has one shower, three toilets and crams approximately 85 people a night who sleep on mats rolled out on the floor.  A condition that’s deemed unsafe, according Lees. 150 people come and go through the shelter throughout a normal day.

“The space will be used mostly for our day and overnight shelter,” said Lees. “But instead of the use of mats, beds will be available for them here.  There will be a kitchen accessible to clients 24-7.

“It’s just important to accommodate these people in a more respectful, dignified, safe and healthy way.”

Phil Goss is a peer advocate for Main Street Project and has been working with the agency for about five years.  He said 31 years ago he was once a client here.

He said it’s incredible to see the organization expanding.

“One of the biggest complaints – not a complaint but an observation, the people weren’t being helped,” he said. “They were being supported with food and warmth, but that’s pretty well it.

“Now, they’re going to have all kinds of opportunities to do all kinds of things like work programs, counselling programs and just all kinds of things to help people up.”

The facility’s administration said they’re working with architects and engineers to hopefully begin renovations by January, with the completion date of December 2019.