Manitoba government injects more money into safety program for downtown Winnipeg

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is putting up $3.6 million to improve safety in downtown Winnipeg and addressing homelessness and addiction.

The money is going to the Downtown Community Safety Partnership, a coalition of government, business and first responder organizations.

The partnership has people on patrol to act as eyes and ears on the street and help steer vulnerable people to places where they can get shelter and other help.

Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen says since the partnership was created in 2020, calls for police to deal with wellness checks and other non-emergency matters have dropped.

The province is also giving the group $175,000 for an accessible van that can bring people to shelters, medical appointments and social services offices.

Mark Chipman, the board chair of the partnership, says the amount of people struggling with addiction and mental health issues in downtown Winnipeg has become a humanitarian crisis.

"The Downtown Community Safety Partnership was created as a response to the ever-increasing number of people living in our downtown who are struggling with mental health and chronic addiction challenges," Chipman, who is also co-owner of the Winnipeg Jets, said Tuesday.

"What used to be less obvious can now be seen everywhere you look. And it's no longer isolated to our downtown. To be very honest, it's gone long past just being heartbreaking. It's become, in my humble opinion, a humanitarian crisis and it's not acceptable."

The Manitoba government gave the partnership $5 million when it was initially set up two years ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2022.

The Canadian Press