Winnipeg councillor backs off on dismantling bus shelters in favour of long-term choices

Transcona’s city councillor, who earlier wanted to dismantle two bus shelters due to concerns about homeless people using them, is backing off that idea and supporting better housing.

Coun. Shawn Nason is now looking at other options that address “the root causes of homelessness and public substance abuse as put forward by the sector,” said a news release from Coun. Sherri Rollins.

Instead, he’s signing on to a new motion with Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) that aims to build at least 150 new low-barrier transitional housing units, the release said.

“The sector that supports our unsheltered community were united in their voice and informed me that I had caused division, and I was mistakenly focused on a symptom and not for a cure,” Nason said in the release.

Earlier this month, the city’s public works committee voted to remove the glass, heating and seating from two bus shelters on Regent Avenue.

People were using the two shelters in front of Kildonan Place as spaces to live and use substances, Nason said. There were items piled up in the shelters, discarded needles and public defecation.

The shelters were the subject of some of the highest numbers of 911 calls in 2021, the fire paramedic service said.

But advocates for people who are homeless say dismantling the bus shelters would only increase stigma against the community. Instead, they suggested other options for council to consider, like creating a supervised consumption site.

Nason is signing on to support longer-term projects, including creating housing, increasing the budget for 24-hour services and finding money to implement the city’s poverty reduction strategy, the release said.

Council is set to vote on the original motion Thursday.

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