Mark Chipman views the plight of those living on the streets of downtown Winnipeg as a “humanitarian crisis.” As the head of a community initiative to connect them with support services, he hopes to do something about that.
“I think we’re past the point where we can just look away and hope somebody’s going to solve it,” said Chipman, co-owner of the Winnipeg Jets and chairman of the Downtown Community Safety Partnership at a press conference Tuesday to announce $3.6 million in funding from the Manitoba government to improve safety in downtown Winnipeg and address homelessness and addiction.
“We have this Prairie mentality of coming together to support one another and I think this matches that description. What are the answers? I wouldn’t profess to know that other than to say we’ll never get anything done unless we work together.”
A coalition of government, business and first responder organizations, DCSP began as a partnership of the Manitoba government, City of Winnipeg, Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, Winnipeg Police Service and True North Sports and Entertainment with an initial $5-million investment from the province.
“It’s wonderful to see the city and the province working together,” said Chipman. “These things don’t just happen as you can imagine. They take time and patience. I’m grateful that the province invested in this when they did and that they’ve seen the value of the work that our folks are doing and that they’re going to reinvest in it.”
To support this work, the DCSP has established further partnerships with groups such as Manitoba 211, OPK Manitoba, Mama Bear Clan, Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation, and the Criti Care paramedic academy. The DCSP is also connected to other related initiatives including shelters such as N’Dinawemak, mental health services and other government programs.
“This funding will allow our DCSP teams to continue to enhance the health, safety and well-being for everyone living, working, learning or visiting downtown,” said DCSP executive director Greg Burnett.
The funding will help augment their three front-line patrol teams – CONNECT, MAC247 (Mobile Assist and Connect) and COAR (Community Outreach Advocacy Resource) – so that we can continue to provide 24-7 visible, proactive, non-emergency response and specialized social needs support.
“This is a team effort if ever there was one,” Burnett added. “I’ve been on some great teams and I’d like to thank everybody (involved).”
Additionally, the Manitoba government will provide the DCSP with $175,000 through the Criminal Property Forfeiture Fund to acquire an accessible van capable of transporting individuals with disabilities and mobility needs. The van will be used to transport individuals to shelters, medical appointments, social services, and probation appointments.
During his remarks Tuesday, Chipman made a pitch from the federal government for DCSP.
“I think everybody’s got a stake in this so that was just a friendly reminder that we’re all Canadians, we’re Manitobans and we’re citizens in the city of Winnipeg,” Chipman said later. “I feel it’s a project that should be invested in.”