Some now-displaced residents of the Adanac Apartments building in Winnipeg’s West End have found new places with Manitoba Housing, while others remain in homeless encampments or otherwise unaccounted for since the building’s closure.
Jeffrey Ross recently got a spot in a Manitoba Housing building on Marion Street, but he hasn’t seen his new place yet. He’s continued to sleep in an encampment next to the Maryland Street bridge, along with several other former residents of the Adanac, which City of Winnipeg inspectors ordered to close on Aug. 21 after finding numerous fire safety issues.
Ross says he accepted the Marion Street spot to encourage other people to move out of the encampment.
“They wouldn’t move unless me and my friend moved. So we got started,” he said.
Even after he moves into his unit, Ross says he and his friend plan to go back to the camp daily to check on things.
On Tuesday, Ross was at the St. Boniface Street Links headquarters at Morberg House on Provencher Boulevard, where outreach workers had helped connect him with housing supports.
Marion Willis, the outreach organization’s executive director, said Ross feels a sense of responsibility for others in the camp, and the others depend on people like him to get their basic needs met.
“There’s a sense of guilt, too,” Willis said — “you know, ‘I got housing and there’s a whole lot of people out there.'”
When CBC News visited the camp on Tuesday, people living there said there were about seven individuals staying in the tents, down from about a dozen last week.
Willis estimates about 40 per cent of the approximately 60 people living in the Adanac when it was closed have found alternative housing. Street Links had about 10 clients in the building, three of whom are now in Manitoba Housing.
“The remaining seven, we continue to work with. We have a couple people that we’ve put in La Salle [Hotel] short term, so maybe about five people out there,” she said.
Camp ‘more relaxed’ than apartment
Ross had lived in the Adanac for two years, but says he felt safer in encampments, due to the number of gang members living in the Sargent Avenue building.
“It was more relaxed in the camp,” he said.
“Living in the building myself, as a known ex-gang member … trying to go straight, people were starting to push me,” said Ross. “Violence was the only way to get through to people, to get through to the younger generations of the gangs there.”
After the Adanac was closed, Manitoba Housing set up a reception centre to connect people with alternative accommodation.
Willis said outcomes were generally positive for those who used the centre.
But part of the difficulty facing former residents is the fact that many of their personal belongings are still inside the building, she said. They’re also uncertain about whether or not the building will ever reopen.
“It’s going to be very difficult for people to settle until there’s an actual outcome with regard to the status of the Adanac,” Willis said.
Inspectors visited the building last Wednesday, and the city is still “in communication with the property owner on resolving the issues,” Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service spokesperson Kristin Cuma wrote in an email.
Once they are addressed, the property will have to be reinspected, she said.
She also said questions about tenants’ personal property should be referred to the property owner.
Building owner Karin Harper-Penner declined requests for comment.
Willis says she would like to see the building reopen with support staff on site to help prevent the kinds of issues that led to the closure.
“If there’s a silver lining or something good that can come out of this, maybe it is the realization that you can’t house very high-risk populations like this without the services.”