Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham prioritizes homelessness in 1st week on the job

Winnipeg’s new mayor says he’s only been in the job for a week, but he’s already started working on ways to address homelessness in the city.

Mayor Scott Gillingham knows unstable housing and homelessness are a big problem in the city.

“These are real people that are struggling, and we have to help,” he told Marcy Markusa in an interview on CBC Manitoba’s Information Radio on Thursday.

“I think it should break all of our hearts. It breaks my heart, because these are these are sons and daughters, these are parents, these are brothers and sisters that we see living on the street.”

He spoke the day after the 2022 Winnipeg Street Census results were released at Siloam Mission.

Gillingham says he’s had conversations with the city’s chief administrative officer to ensure people experiencing homelessness can access city facilities during extreme weather. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The survey reached over 1,200 people in the city without homes, and the researchers said that doesn’t include those experiencing “hidden homelessness” — people couch surfing with friends or staying with family members.

They estimate that population was undercounted by at least 4,000 people, based on a ratio of three people for every one person experiencing absolute homelessness.

Homelessness needs to be addressed by the next mayor and council, a majority of Winnipeggers said in a poll done before the election on Oct. 26.

Gillingham said he’s already spoken with the city’s chief administrative officer about opening up city spaces in cold weather to give people places to go, as he promised during his mayoral campaign.

Gillingham also plans to shift staff around so he has an advisor on future work on the issue.

“I’m starting to look at that right now, in my mayoral staff, is a senior advisor on homelessness and addiction, because it is a top issue in this city,” he said.

Gillingham recommitted Thursday to another campaign promise regarding affordable housing.

Gillingham pledged during his mayoral campaign to create at least 270 units of modular housing — homes that are built off-site and then moved to a permanent location — using funds from the federal government’s rapid housing initiative.

“I’m going to access the third round of funding from the federal government to make more modular homes available to get more people off the street,” he said Thursday.

Gillingham said during the campaign that the city would waive permit and land costs and property taxes for the homes, while also speeding up the zoning approval process.

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