With rising cost of living, 1JustCity expects its winter shelter to be busy

With colder temperatures and longer nights coming to southern Manitoba, an organization that works with this city’s most vulnerable is expecting a busy winter, as they look to help the homeless to stay warm and fed, by putting a temporary roof over their heads.

“I just can’t even imagine how challenging it is for someone who is sleeping on the ground somewhere this time of year, or in the dead of winter,” 1JustCity executive director Glynis Quinn said.

“The cold just gets into your body and into your bones and you just can’t get warmed up, so I can’t even imagine.”

This week, 1JustCity, a not-for-profit organization that runs three drop-in shelters in Winnipeg, opened up their Just a Warm Sleep emergency warming centre on Pulford Street in the Osborne Village neighbourhood.

Quinn said the shelter, which will now stay open until the end of March, allows people to drop in for food, programming, and for a warm and comfortable place to sleep overnight temporarily, if they have nowhere else to go.

And with winter coming, Quinn said she knows how important the service will be for many, and that for some it could mean the difference between life and death.

“When it gets cold we know that people who have nowhere to stay or sleep, they can end up dead, because that’s how harsh it can be out there,” she said.

But she said many who need shelter and support often shy away from seeking it because they feel stigmatized by much of society, and ashamed because of their personal situations and struggles.

“The population we deal with is not one that has always seen a lot of acceptance in their lives, and sometimes they are not a population that people even see at all, or chose to recognize,” Quinn said.

“Our guests often tell us they feel invisible in the world, so we want people to know they are being seen, and being heard, and being accepted.”

To create that feeling of acceptance, Quinn said they offer a “no barriers” shelter, where people can bring in their own personal belongings, or can come in if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as long as they behave respectfully.

“An important part of this is to de-stigmatize life for people for a few hours, and that’s a huge component of it, because so many of them have spent their whole lives having people tell them what they are doing wrong and what they need to do differently, rather than listening to them.”

And according to Quinn, they are seeing a 30% increase in people coming into their three shelters in recent weeks and since opening their winter shelter space this week, and that means there are now people using their services that have never used those types of services before.

“We’re seeing new people because with the significant increase in the cost of living, people are having to decide if they pay their rent, or for food, or pay their hydro bill, and sadly these are decisions that people are being forced to make every day in this city,” she said.

“So we are expecting a very busy winter at our shelter this year.”

More information on 1JustCity’s services or on ways to help support the organization through donations can be found by visiting 1JustCity.ca.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun