As Brandon’s homeless sought shelter from the dangerous cold Tuesday, the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corp. announced new funding to help tackle the homeless situation within Manitoba’s Indigenous population.
The BNRC is soliciting applications for projects through Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy, a $2.2-billion federal investment designed to support the goals of the National Housing Strategy.
Reaching Home’s Indigenous funding stream will provide a total of $1,793,240 over four years for capital or non-capital projects that target off-reserve homelessness in rural Manitoba.
The call for proposals opened Tuesday.
It’s important to have funding specifically set aside to help Indigenous people, said BNRC’s Reaching Home co-ordinator Blaine Foley, adding they are overrepresented in the homeless population.
"I think it’s really important that we have this funding available, and I think it’ll be able to make a real positive impact in the communities that receive the funding."
Foley said the money can be used to fund either capital projects, such as emergency shelters or transitional housing, or to hire workers to connect homeless clients with housing and other community supports.
Indigenous stream funding may be used for projects anywhere in Manitoba excluding First Nations communities and Winnipeg.
Foley noted other government funding is available for programs to help those living on reserves.
Brandon organizations see a strong need for funding to help Indigenous people facing homelessness.
"There is a crisis there, because if it’s not looked after, it could evolve substantially more," said Kris Olsen, the Housing First co-ordinator for the Manitoba Metis Federation Southwest Region.
"A lot of people aren’t aware of how many people actually are out there," Olsen said, adding many homeless people exist under the radar, for one reason or another.
The Housing First program receives funding through Reaching Home to work with clients and landlords to get people off the street and into homes.
"I take the guys right off the streets, living on the streets right in the middle of their addiction, and we work with them to get them ... housing, and then once they’re housed, we work with them to keep them housed," Olsen said.
Samaritan House Ministries has already recorded approximately 850 bed stays at its Safe & Warm shelter since it opened for the season at the beginning of November, and as many as 70 per cent of those seeking shelter are Indigenous, said executive director John Jackson.
"It’s quite busy," Jackson said of the shelter, as temperatures dipped into -38 C range with the wind chill on Tuesday afternoon.
But while it has a large number of Indigenous clients, Samaritan House — which also operates a food bank — does not apply for funding through the Reaching Home program, Jackson said.
"I think it’s important that those funds are applied for by organizations that can demonstrate a very strong commitment to Indigenous-specific services," he said, "and I think for Samaritan House, although many of the clients we work with are Indigenous, and although we certainly try to work in a culturally appropriate way, I don’t know that we necessarily fit the criteria as much as another organization might."
Instead, Samaritan House works closely with organizations such as the MMF, Youth for Christ and the Brandon Friendship Centre, Jackson said.
Those eligible for funding under the Reaching Home’s Indigenous funding stream include both not-for-profit and for-profit organizations; Indigenous organizations and municipalities.
Proposals will be required to address questions demonstrating how they are culturally appropriate to Indigenous Canadians.
The Government of Canada’s redesigned homelessness program launched April 1, 2019, following the conclusion of the previous Homelessness Partnering Strategy. The federal strategy is designed to support the goals of the National Housing Strategy to cut chronic homelessness in half by 2027-2028.
It is estimated that approximately 35,000 Canadians experience homelessness on any given night, and at least 235,000 Canadians are homeless in any given year, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia.
Reaching Home is a community-based program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness by providing direct support and funding to Designated Communities (urban centres), Indigenous communities, territorial communities and rural and remote communities across Canada.
An approximately one-hour information session via a toll-free phone call will be hosted by BNRC on Jan. 28 at 10 a.m. to review the application process and answer any questions.
Applications and proposals can be sent to Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corp., 440 Rosser Ave. Brandon, MB, R7A 0K3, Attention Blaine Foley, Reaching Home co-ordinator.
The deadline for proposals is Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 4:30 p.m. Proposals submitted after the deadline will not be considered.