Yesterday, Monday November 23rd, in Question Period asked about plans for those who are experiencing homelessness. We are coming up to a frigid winter. We have COVID-19 to deal with. Many of the places where people who are homeless normally go to - cafes, restaurants, community centres, libraries - are now closed or at best only open for pick up at the door. It is critical we have more public spaces open as warming shelters for those who are homeless. My question and the Premier's answer are below.
COVID-19 and the Homeless Population - Use of Public Buildings for Rest Areas
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, the provincial government has the opportunity to save lives from the cold by acting now to open government buildings with washrooms and places for people to sit day and night.
The growing homeless population needs reliable and accessible places to wash their hands as they face increasing barriers with the closure of libraries and community centres in addition to coffee shop restrictions due to COVID-19.
The Province and the City together own many buildings that could open their doors to help people struggling in the cold as emergency shelter spaces are also reduced.
I ask: Will the Premier act before it is too late to make enough warm places accessible for our friends on the street who are homeless?
Hon. Brian Pallister (Premier): This is a new trend, I hope, Madam Speaker. I encourage the Liberal members of our Chamber to continue along this vein, as opposed to recording conversations surreptitiously. I appreciate the member raising the concern.
I will say this that most importantly, our numbers, in terms of contacts, have to come down. And I wanted to say thank you, while I had the opportunity, to all of the folks who listened to the admonitions from Dr. Roussin, myself and many others to not bombard our shopping centres and facilities just prior to the restrictions–the new restrictions coming in.
Those restrictions are hard. They're hard on small businesses. We know that but our small-business population responded admirably, framing off sections of their stores, making sure that they accommodated people. And the customers responded by not badgering people in frustration with these changes.
And so I thank the members for their questions and we'll certainly be willing to work with them if they continue with this positive tone–welcome them to team Manitoba, if they choose to stay.