State of the Inner City Report 2020: Front-line Community-Based Organizations bridge marginalized and government services

For Immediate Release (Winnipeg): Dozens of Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) in Winnipeg’s inner city have pivoted to help marginalized community members meet their basic needs, with little resources, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Poverty rates in the inner-city are 30.3%, double those of Winnipeg as a whole at 15.9%.

COVID-19: The Changing State of the Inner City – Strengthening community in a time of social isolation tracks the impacts of the pandemic from its start in Manitoba in March until early November. The research is based on interviews with 30 front-line workers and directors at 21 different inner city organizations who serve children and youth, families, are Indigenous-led, newcomer-serving, do neighbourhood renewal and serve those involved in the criminal justice system.

Today is Human Rights Day. Canada is party to multiple international legal treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which includes the right to adequate shelter and food. Unfortunately during COVID-19 this is not the case in Winnipeg’s inner city as this year’s report shows.

Launch Thursday December 10th, 1 pm with presentations from report authors.

Livestreamed on the CCPA MB’s YouTube channel

Urban Indigenous communities already struggling with the impacts of colonization and inter-generational traumas are particularly hard-hit by COVID-19, writes Niigaan Sinclair in his chapter of the report.  

The report finds that CBOs are front-line workers providing essential services linking marginalized residents up with government services like health care, mental health care, employment and income supports, housing and providing outreach to vulnerable people. CBOs continued to provide services through outreach or following social distancing with precarious funding with a lack of PPE.  

The research also finds that CBOs should be meaningfully included in emergency planning and provided resources to develop their own plans given their essential link to marginalized people without resources like telephones, internet, basic housing etc.  The report finds CBOs are an essential part of public health and should be included in public health strategies.

The report adds evidence to what Chief Public Health Officer of Canada’s Theresa Tam’s 2020 report, From Risk to Resilience: An Equity Approach to COVID-19, finds, that basic needs — shelter, food, clothing, washrooms and access to communica­tions — are key social determinants of health. While governments have been quick to provide support for homeless populations and domestic violence shelters, the hidden homeless and those who can’t access shelters, among many others, have been ignored entirely. This is exacerbated by extremely low welfare rates and the closure of warm public spaces required by the pandemic.

Access to food, internet/ phone and safe (drug) consumption supplies (including Naloxone) became even more pressing during the pandemic. Community groups struggled with antiquated regulations regarding Naloxone in response to an increase in overdoses in the inner city during COVID.

COVID-19: The Changing State of the Inner City “Strengthening community in a time of social isolation” is available online here