Housing complex for LGBT seniors in Winnipeg among projects getting federal funding

An affordable housing project geared toward LGBT people over the age of 55 is among three projects in Winnipeg selected to receive millions of dollars in federal funding. 

The proposed 21-unit, four-storey complex will include a mix of affordable units, with some specifically filling a need for older LGBT adults.

“There’s currently no 2SLGBTQ-plus, 55-plus housing options,” said Noreen Mian, executive director of the Rainbow Resource Centre.

“And for this population, it’s not always safe, or affirming, to be in a congregate setting or to be in a 55-plus setting. So what we’re seeing is 2SLGBTQ-plus older adults going back into the closet when they have to enter this next phase of life.”

The facility was selected by the City of Winnipeg to receive funding from the second round of the federal Rapid Housing Initiative.

In July, the federal government announced the city would get $12.8 million from the initiative, launched last year in an effort to quickly bring new affordable housing onto the market.

The seniors’ housing complex — spearheaded by a partnership between the Westminster Housing Society, Rainbow Resource Centre and West Broadway Community Organization — will get $5 million from the initiative.

It will be built at the corner of Good Street and Broadway, next to the historic Wilson House.

“These units are meant for people on welfare, on disability,” said Mary Agnes Welch, board chair of the Westminster Housing Society. “Working poor people on genuinely low incomes will be able to afford these units.”

Housing for women, homeless

A 21-unit complex for women and gender-diverse people and their families escaping violence, led by the West Central Women’s Resource Centre, will also get Rapid Housing Initiative funding this year.

So will a 22-unit short-term housing facility for people on the verge of homelessness, proposed by the Manitoba Métis Federation.

The West Central Women’s Resource Centre plans to use $4.3 million from the initiative to convert an apartment building at 590 Victor St. into a transitional housing facility for women and gender-diverse people and their families fleeing violent situations.

“The plan is for folks to be able to live with us for up to two years while they stabilize and then … be able to begin to heal from their trauma,” said Lorie English, executive director of the West Central Women’s Resource Centre.

Existing services meant to help people escaping violence or people experiencing homelessness often don’t have staff with proper training to help those dealing with both simultaneously, English said.

The new facility will fill that gap by providing services while allowing people to stay long enough to get back on their feet, she said.

Will Goodon, minister of housing and property management for the Manitoba Métis Federation, said their project aims to help people who are homeless and struggling with addictions and mental health issues.

Those people are “in danger for their lives, and we want to make sure that we can get them before things get really out of control for them,” he said.

The proposed 22-unit facility at 670 Main St. will get $3.4 million from the initiative. People will be able to stay for a few months, with some larger units set aside for families fleeing domestic violence.

1st round nearing completion

The city’s selection of the projects in this round of the Rapid Housing Initiative comes as some projects from the first round are about to open their doors.

As part of the conditions for approval, all projects must be finished within a year.

Two projects — a 20-unit supportive recovery facility by Siloam Mission and a 13-unit housing complex for women by Salvation Army — are expected to begin occupancy by Dec. 9, while Shawenim Abinoojii Inc. expects its 18 units of housing for Indigenous youth to open by Dec. 21, according to a report prepared for the city’s property and development committee.

At the same time, the city has struggled to get funding for the Rapid Housing Initiative projects out the door due to a lack of staff resources, the report says.

The city’s 2022 preliminary budget includes $250,000 next year, and the promise of another $250,000 the following year, to hire more staff to administer the funding.

More affordable housing options are needed, says the Rainbow Resource Centre’s Mian. Once it opens, their housing facility for LGBT seniors will be a “drop in the bucket” compared to what’s required, she said.

“It’s the start of something much bigger, and I hope that it is an inspiration for other cities across Canada to follow suit.”

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