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Looking after the people who are experiencing homelessness during the COVID pandemic

On Tuesday November 3, in my Member's Statement and in Question Period I raised concerns about those who are experiencing homelessness.   Colder weather is coming and many of the locations like libraries where those who are homeless often go during the day are not as available.   My Member's Statement and my question in Question Period are below:

Member's Statement Housing the Homeless

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, being homeless in winter is preventable. There is a solution: organize like Medicine Hat and get the job done.

      Another option is to rent empty hotel space for people to stay. This would need help for those with addictions, mental illness, and with security and getting people back on their feet. With leadership, it can be done.

      More than half of people experiencing homelessness were in the care of Child and Family Services as children. NDP and PC governments took away monies in trust for these children. Instead of  funds being there when they aged out of care, there  was nothing. Can you imagine being sent to a homeless shelter as a present on your 18th birthday? Money stolen from children in CFS care should be returned. Many would no longer be homeless.

      NDP and PC governments have undervalued public health. Lead exposure in early childhood is a risk factor for homelessness. Children must be screened early in life to prevent health and social issues resulting from lead poisoning.

      Helping our friends on the street experiencing homelessness is possible.

      In England, a survey last autumn found 4,300 people sleeping rough. March 26th, after COVID arrived, Britain's government told local authorities to move homeless people into appropriate accommodation by the end of the week. The official target ending rough sleeping by 2024 shifted in the blink of an eye to a goal of three days.

      By April 10th, more than 1,000 homeless in London were in hotel rooms, and all over England those on the street decreased from 4,300 to between five and six hundred.

      We have the power to act. We must act.

      Thank you.

Question Period: 

Children Aging Out Of CFS Care
Call for Housing Support

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, it is cold and life-threatening to be homeless in Winnipeg in winter, especially during the COVID pandemic.

      Special allowance money unjustly taken from children in care by the Province has made it worse. More than half of those experiencing homelessness today were children in care. Instead of sending children to homeless shelters when they age out of care, the Province should return the money stolen from these children.

      When will the government return the money to these children so that fewer will be homeless, and when will the government act to provide hotel rooms for those experiencing homelessness so they don't have to sleep where they are at greater risk of COVID‑19?

Hon. Heather Stefanson (Minister of Families): I want to thank the member for the question, and it gives me an opportunity to point out that those children that were aging out of care, we are–we put more resources there to ensure that they don't age out of care and that they have the resources that they need to move on and get the housing and get the supports that they need in a community. So we are doing that.

      With respect to the other incident–or, the other issue that the member mentioned, in terms of the children's special allowance, Madam Speaker, it was the previous–it was the practice of the previous NDP government that put that into place, and we have ended that practice to ensure that children in care get the resources that they need in order to get them back with their families, reunited with their families and to be able to stay with their families. That's the important thing here.

My statement and question received media coverage in the Winnipeg Sun.  You can see it by clicking on this link.


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