The system delays in people who are homeless getting Employment and Income Assistance are a major barrier
On Wednesday November 25 I called on the Minister of Families to increase the staffing at her Employment and Income Assistance [EIA] section to speed up the ability of individuals who are homeless to get EIA. For an individual who is homeless this is a critical first step in being able to get housing. The delays in getting EIA mean delays in getting access to housing and to food. As you will see in her answer below, Minister Stefanson avoided answering the question. I expect she knows about the long delays and does not want to admit there is a problem.
Consider the situation in Medicine Hat where they have done much better than Winnipeg in getting people housing within 48 hours. In order to get a person without EIA housing in 48 hours it is necessary to get them on EIA in the first 24 hours and then to get them housing in the next 24 hours. If, as in Winnipeg, there is a three week delay before even having an intake interview for EIA, this means that the earliest you could possibly get someone housing is 3 weeks. It is time to make the change in Manitoba to accelerate access to EIA as the first critical step to accelerating access to housing. This is why I asked for access to EIA in 24 hours and access to housing in the next 24 hours. It would make a big difference to decrease homelessness in Winnipeg if we could start with this as a goal and put the resources and process in place to get it done. My question and the Minister's answer is below.
Employment and Income Assistance - Rapid Access to Housing and Benefits
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, during the COVID-19 pandemic we've learned it is critically important to have COVID test results reported within 24 hours and contact tracing completed in the next 24 hours.
There is another area where rapid action is needed: to help those who experience homelessness to get inside out of the cold. They need rapid access to employment and income assistance and rapid access to a place to live.
Right now there's a delay of about three weeks in even getting intake into EIA. That's way too long.
When will the minister act to increasing staffing at EIA to make sure people can access EIA within 24 hours and then access housing in the next 24 hours?
Hon. Heather Stefanson (Minister of Families): I thank the member for the question. It gives me the opportunity to talk about our homeless population right now, Madam Speaker.
And, certainly, this is a time when all Manitobans are struggling through this very difficult time and COVID-19. We recognize the challenges faced by those in our homeless community. That's why we have a person dedicated specifically within the Department of Families to help co-ordinate services for people in the community.
We have made significant investments–over $3.5 million, Madam Speaker–to help with our shelters. We are continuing to work with our community partners and–to ensure that all of those people are–have access to safe and warm places.