There is an increase in the number of people in Steinbach who are living on the streets or couch-surfing.
“We know the names of 26 (people) and I have heard of three more after that, so 30-31 are out there on the street,” she says. “And then that doesn't include all of those that are couching or have found a temporary place to stay in order to stay warm.”
Steinbach has an emergency overnight shelter. Today House only has two rooms and Kroeker says they are always being used.
When night falls and the temperature plummets, Kroeker says people without shelter are forced to seek warmth in any way possible. And that can mean sleeping in the entrance of a building or in an open shed or vehicle.
“There is one gentleman we know that is coaching in a shed,” she says. “And I was dreaming about maybe having one of those blankets that you plug in? Wouldn’t it be really nice for him? He does have a plug-in there. It's just a 110 plug-in, it's not a heavy-duty plug-in. But wouldn't it be nice if he could just cover himself with a warm blanket?”
Kroeker says some of the big barriers include challenges with accessing EIA (Employment and Income Assistance) because recipients need to have a fixed address. When a person does not have a place to live, they cannot provide a fixed address, which means they do not qualify for necessary financial support.
Another barrier that Kroeker identifies is the lack of affordable housing in Steinbach. SCO is working on an apartment building with suites that are basic and affordable. Kroeker notes the 24 suites in that building is a good start but is not enough to meet the needs of the community.
Steinbach Community Outreach was able to help one person this month to find a place to rent. Ben Reimer had been living in a tent for over three weeks and recently was able to find a room to rent.
Both Reimer and Kroeker are dreaming of a warming shelter that would allow homeless people to get out of the cold, long enough to warm up.
“We would love it if somebody out there would be able to accommodate 10 or more people at night that are wandering around and have no place to warm up,” Kroeker says. “We would love for them to go somewhere. It does not have to be fancy.”
Kroeker acknowledges that it might not be as easy as it sounds to set up a warming shelter. It would require regular cleaning and there would have to be a washroom facility. It might need a specific type of insurance policy. Anyone interested in pursuing this idea, contact Kroeker at Steinbach Community Outreach.
Until a warming shelter is a reality, SCO is asking for donations that will help people survive during the winter months. Kroeker says disposable handwarmers are very helpful during cold weather. They are single use air-activated heat packs that are ideal for keeping hands and feet warm as the temperature drops.
Here is a list of some more items that will help replenish SCO supplies that are distributed to people who need some help:
Bars of soap
Dish washing soap
Toothbrushes or Toothpaste
Waterproof winter mitts
Winter Parkas and Boots
Perishable food donations are accepted and encouraged but must be brought upstairs between 9am and 4pm.
Any donations can be brought to 345 Loewen Boulevard in Steinbach. The blue Outreach doors can be found near the back of the building on the west side. Donations can also be left in the bin beside the doors anytime. Please call 204-380-2692 if you have any questions about donations.