Province Announces Location of New Sobering Centre in Thompson

Polaris Centre will be Repurposed to Support Safer, Healthier Community: Friesen

Header Image: Stephen Allen giving Mayor Colleen Smook the keys to the Polaris Buildings.

This announcement was originally published by the Government of Manitoba here.

The Manitoba government is transferring ownership of the former Polaris Centre at the University of the North to the City of Thompson to house a sobering centre in the community, Justice Minister Cameron Friesen announced today.

“Sobering centres have been shown to reduce the number of intoxicated individuals who are hospitalized or held in holding cells. This model is better for the individual, and better for the utilization of police and emergency department resources,” said Friesen. “I’m pleased to announce this next step in the Thompson Sobering Centre project, which will support safety and health in Thompson and the surrounding regions.”

Sobering centres provide short-term recovery from intoxication in a safe setting, where individuals are medically cleared and monitored throughout their stay by on-site personnel. The new centre will provide a 24-7 safe and secure environment for non-violent, publicly intoxicated individuals to stay while the effects of drugs and/or alcohol wear off.

Public intoxication continues to be a significant health and public safety issue in Thompson, with over 2,400 detentions under the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act in 2020 and over 1,100 so far in 2021. Public intoxication calls put a significant burden on Thompson’s RCMP detachment, as well as local health-care facilities.

“The Polaris buildings are a critical part of helping our most vulnerable residents find shelter and compassionate care in our community,” said Mayor Colleen Smook, City of Thompson. “We’re now looking forward to working with our community partners to provide that care, and mapping our next steps towards an integrated rehabilitation program.”

The Polaris Centre campus, constructed in 1968 at the corner of Princeton Drive and Station Road, sits on more than four acres of land and includes three buildings totaling 78,617 square feet of floor area. 

“This partnership with the City of Thompson has been terrific and I’m proud that we were able to support the community in this way,” said Central Services Minister Reg Helwer. “Repurposing this site will ensure people of Thompson have access to a safe environment for those that need it.”

The Manitoba government provided $2.8 million to establish and operate the centre, and will continue to work with the City of Thompson to open an interim centre in late fall/early winter while construction of the permanent centre continues.

The province continues to support law enforcement and community stakeholders in approaches to combat and reduce public intoxication and disorder in the downtown Thompson area and extend the Restorative Justice Centre model to the community.

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