Pandemic causes spike in youth homelessness in Winnipeg


A report released by a Winnipeg non-profit agency working with street-entrenched youth up to the age of 29 says homelessness has increased due to the pandemic.

In its report, Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY), which put 207 youth into permanent housing in 2019 and prevented 544 evictions, says demand for services to help those experiencing homelessness has gone up, with more people new to the streets. They said COVID-19 has created a ripple effect on people already marginalized, creating greater need for housing, Naloxone overdose kits, harm reduction services, food and water.

“Apartment viewings, for example, it’s maybe seemingly not a huge deal for most of us, for them (it could give) pause,” Breda Vosters, information manager with RaY said in an interview on Tuesday. “Throughout the pandemic, when folks have no options to leave the streets, they are going to need more access to supports and services that help them survive on the streets. There’s an increasing demand for a lot of the basic needs items.”

Vosters said there is no silver bullet solution when it comes to solving the problem of homelessness in Winnipeg and the increased demand for services, adding there needs to be a concerted and collaborative effort among all levels of government – supported by the general public.

“Agencies like ours do a great job of intervention, and to some degree a good job of preventing homelessness as well,” she said. “But the real issues that lead to homelessness are the systemic issues – issues within the Child and Family Services system, issues within the housing system, and a lack of housing supply that’s affordable.”

On Tuesday, more help arrived for the homeless and precariously housed Winnipeggers when the mayor’s Executive Policy Committee voted to accept a $12.8 million second round of federal Rapid Housing Initiative funds that will create around 51 permanent housing units in Winnipeg.

“What I love most about this program is that it is rapid,” Mayor Brian Bowman, who spearheaded the intuitive, said in a press conference on Monday. “It’s also outcomes focused. Fifty-one new affordable housing units, in addition to the investments the federal government has already made in our community, is something that is really going to help a lot of people in our community.”