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Siloam Mission launches housing strategy, aims to solve chronic homelessness in Winnipeg

A Winnipeg-based non-profit organization is hoping to tackle chronic homelessness in the city with a newly launched housing strategy.

Siloam Mission said its goal is to create between 700 and 1,000 housing units over the next 10 years to provide more shelter for vulnerable people.

“A lot of people think about homelessness as something that happens to an individual and are looking for individual solutions,” said Siloam Mission CEO Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud. “But at a systems level, most homelessness is caused by a lack of affordable and supportive housing options.”

While Blaikie Whitecloud called the target ambitious, she said it’s possible.

“We’re not going to solve homelessness in Winnipeg without being ambitious,” she said. “We might fall short in 10 years, we might over-deliver in 10 years; I think that there are enough Winnipeggers that want to see a solution to homelessness.”

Currently, Siloam Mission operates 137 housing units around Winnipeg, in addition to its shelter space and drop-in facility in the Exchange District.

According to Blaikie Whitecloud, if Siloam Mission reaches or surpasses its goal of building 1,000 units, the spaces will be able to house around 25 per cent of Winnipeg’s homeless population.

But the new project comes with a hefty price tag. Blaikie Whitecloud estimated each unit will cost between $150,000 and $250,000 to create, but said the investment will pay off.

“We know that there will be so many savings,” she said. “There’ll be savings in our health care system when people are housed adequately and can recover or prevent health issues by having housing. There’ll be savings in police and ambulance calls. There’ll be savings in social systems.”

In order to reach its goal, Siloam Mission said it’s also looking to partner with organizations like True North Sports and Entertainment, as well as the provincial and municipal governments.

The organization said it will also work with the community it serves to develop housing units that best fit their needs.

“What I hope the community members who get to live in that housing after feel is that they were heard,” said Blaikie Whitecloud. “That housing was built for them with them in mind, by their leadership with dignity, so that they can thrive and then in return contribute to society.”

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