The province is bumping up its investments in isolation units for people experiencing both homelessness and exposure to COVID-19, as well as its low-income meal program.
"We know the pandemic has had a significant impact on individuals experiencing homelessness," Families Minister Rochelle Squires says, noting this population needs a safe place to stay when they may come into contact with COVID-19.
She says the Main Street Project isolation units, which had an initial investment of $1.6 million, have been recently operating between 80 to 100 per cent maximum capacity.
The minister is announcing the addition of $468,000 of funds set to be diverted to add more units Tuesday.
Additionally, the province's program to provide three meals a day for low-income people in isolation without kitchens and unable to provide meals for themselves is getting a $335,000 boost.
Since December 31, five to 10 low-income Manitobans per day have received daily meal packages from Made with Love and Manitoba Housing’s Food Services, delivered by Sscope.
When people are no longer potential COVID-19 cases, they also leave behind the supports they experienced.
Squires says the province has previously invested in other initiatives focussing on homelessness such as a $17.5 million-housing boost in December, and in January an announcement to improve security at Manitoba Housing facilities. She says they are also working with community groups such as Siloam Mission and Main Street Project to ensure housing, and programs focussing on youth ageing out of the CFS system.
"This pandemic has recently created a greater awareness and emphasis and need based on results of the pandemic and other variables," the minister says. "We are continuously working to assess the situation and to ensure that we are able to provide housing for all Manitobans."
Since the pandemic, shelters have had reduced capacity, leaving many people to sleep on the streets or camp out in bus shelters.
"I am told today there is capacity in all of our shelters. We know as the weekend approaches and our temperatures are about to plummet that may change."
She says the province is in conversation with shelters to assure there is room to keep those in need warm.
Squires says community ambassador programs, such as downtown patrols, are on the streets forming relationships and building trust with people on the street. The goal of that is to build friendships and trust so those seeking help know who to ask.
The minister says despite being new to the Families role, she is impressed by the dedication of others who are helping Manitobans experiencing homelessness.
In November, the province announced training and recruitment initiatives for Manitobans who have disabilities. Since the late fall, 2,000 people have applied. Additionally, a free online training program from Red River College focussing on the fundamentals of disability support work has seen over 150 participants.