Looking Back: Cold Weather Shelters and COVID-19

With the worst of winter seemingly behind us in Thompson, we wanted to shed a spotlight on the Cold Weather Shelter program coordinated by the Thompson Homeless Shelter every winter.

Roughly 70 residents in Thompson are considered chronically homeless, but the Thompson Homeless can only accommodate 24 at a time. Though the Shelter-in-Place Program ran by the YWCA has accommodated an additional 25 residents in 2020/2021, that still leaves an excess of roughly 20 residents without homes who need to seek alternative shelter on a nightly basis.

When temperatures reached a critical threshold (in our case, -35C), the warming shelters at Thompson’s ice rinks continued to be used as cold weather shelters by the Thompson Homeless Shelter to accommodate this overflow of residents.

The shelter’s services were accessed 250 times by residents over the course of 30 days this year (sometimes by the same individual, multiple times).

Federal Reaching Home Funding Helped Purchase A New Van.

Through a grant from the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation and Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy, the Thompson Homeless Shelter has purchased a new van for transporting people to the emergency shelters.

The van helped the Thompson Homeless Shelter to transport patients without homes to COVID-19 testing and other medical appointments, and offer transportation to cold-weather shelters more reliably when partners were not available.

Emergency Services Work Together To Get Residents to Warming Shelters.

Emergency cold weather shelters are located at the outdoor skating rinks, far from downtown. However, starting at 10:00pm, the shelter worked with Keewatin Tribal Council to provide transportation from the shelter downtown to the cold weather shelters, so that sheltering residents don’t need to make the journey.

If a resident is excessively intoxicated and poses a risk to themselves or others, they’re picked up by RCMP or CSO’s and taken to the RCMP holding cells in Thompson. Conversely, individuals who are being released from holding cells late in the night are dropped off directly to the cold weather shelters by RCMP officers if they’re open.

Thompson Fire and Emergency Services are also notified when the shelters open, so that families in distress can be transported to the shelters if they have nowhere else to turn.

Pandemics Are Tricky When It Comes to Emergency Shelter, But Hygiene Has Controlled The Spread.

Operating the Thompson Homeless Shelter and the cold weather shelters present a challenge during the pandemic particularly during the winter: turning people away is simply not an option when temperatures are frigid. Social distancing is challenging in the shelters, but staff have stressed masks and hand-washing when indoors.

Thankfully, Thompson has been lucky that transmission among our homeless population has been relatively low. Staff at the THS also monitored residents for potential risks and symptoms, and provided transportation to and from testing sites, vaccination appointments, and medical appointments more generally.

Thompson’s 2021 Construction Season Off To Strong Start With $3.6M in Construction Registered As Of March!

Following a busy construction season in 2020, construction plans in Thompson are already off to a strong start in 2021, based on permits already filed as of the end of March this year.

Thirty-three permits have already been filed with the City of Thompson’s Inspections department, with a total construction value of $3, 647, 802.42. The construction is entirely made up of investment from the local private sector, including one new business.

This compares with 11 permits filed by the end of March 2020 valued at $1, 831, 554, most of which was filed prior to Manitoba’s state of emergency.

More commercial permits are anticipated later in the year, based on existing construction projects underway in the community.

“Last year was a challenging year for businesses in our community,” said Mayor Colleen Smook. “But construction in Thompson continues to hold strong as our residents and entrepreneurs continue to find new opportunities in Thompson.”

Building Permits Highlight $11, 486, 226 in Construction Completed in 2020

Despite the uncertainty and restrictions around COVID-19, construction investments remained steady in Thompson for 2020. Property owners invested $11, 486, 226 in construction in 2020, slightly up from $11, 019, 004 in 2019.

The value of residential alterations jumped to $878, 901 across 48 projects in 2020, more than threefold from $272, 685 across 34 projects in 2019. Residents also built 16 garages last year at a total value of $253, 685, up from one garage worth $35, 000 in 2019.

Commercial properties saw $7, 071, 511 in alterations across 21 projects this year, up from $3, 006, 772 across 24 projects in 2019. One new commercial project saw an investment of $864, 000.

Public institutions, including schools, saw $1, 692, 430 in alterations.

“With people stuck at home due to the pandemic, many have chosen to improve their homes and their businesses,” said Mayor Colleen Smook. “We’re excited to see those Thompsonites investing back into their community and their life in the north.”

As COVID-19 Restrictions Loosen, Thompson’s Case Numbers Are Slow To Improve. Here’s Why.

As COVID-19 restrictions loosen in the province, positive COVID-19 cases in Thompson have increased slowly but steadily since the winter holidays. begging the question: where is the transmission within our community taking place?

Last week, the City of Thompson sat down with NRHA officials and northern leaders to discuss where our current cases are coming from.

Although several cases have been reported among students of local schools, the NRHA has noted that all of these cases have been acquired outside of the classroom.  Currently public health officials have seen no evidence of transmission within schools.

Transmission downtown, including among Thompson’s homeless residents, has also remained low.

Rather, contact tracing by the NRHA has determined that the largest source of infections so far is visitation against public health orders: people visiting each other in homes that they are not supposed to.

Home visitation carries a number of risk factors: close quarters in smaller rooms, poor ventilation, common surfaces and sustained contact all contribute to the high likelihood of spread due to residential visits, compounded by the likelihood that people remove their masks at home.

WE have the power to turn the tide.

Whether we’re placed on lockdown or free to roam our gyms and stores, the fundamental guidelines haven’t changed since the fall.

  • Wear your mask properly indoors. Make sure it covers *all* of your face holes.
  • Give your peers space and limit close contact to what is absolutely necessary.
  • Send only *one* household member shopping. Plan your grocery trips so you need them less often.
  • Wash your hands properly, for 20 full seconds, or use hand sanitizer if you can’t.
  • Limit your contacts. Don’t throw parties. Meet your friends outside if you have to.

Restrictions are loosening. Now what?

It’s important to remember that just because restrictions are loosening does not mean that we can abuse them without consequences. If we do abuse them, they will be tightened back up in short order.

Though we have more freedom to take part in the activities we love, it’s important enjoy them responsibly. This means making decisions like:

  • Eating at home today, so you can eat out when you have that really, really bad day;
  • Doing body weight and free weight exercises for simple muscle groups at home, and saving the gym for more specialized exercises;
  • Meeting your friends outside for a walk, so you can visit them at home sooner.
  • Plan an outdoor photo shoot, instead of in a studio.

Enjoying public life in moderation will allow Manitoba to control the pandemic, and keep restrictions to a minimum. Most importantly though, enjoying public life in moderation helps prevent us from getting COVID-19, and passing it on to someone else.

The Special Service Levy Covers Your Service Line Breaks.

Mayor and Council are hosting a Public Hearing on February 11, 2021 to review the budgeted rates for the City of Thompson’s Special Service Levy, which covers the repair of private residential water breaks between a resident’s property line and one meter away from a home’s foundation.

The average service break repair costs roughly $6000 to repair, and can cost up to $15, 000 depending on the complexity of excavation and repair work. The service levy, in place for almost a decade, helps reduce the risk of aging infrastructure to an individual homeowner by distributing the cost of repairs across the entire community.

Below are the proposed Special Service Levy rates for 2021-2025, as being discussed at the Public Hearing:

YearTotal Estimated RepairsSpecial Service Levy Rate
2021$300, 000$92.56
2022$325, 000$100.28
2023$350, 000$107.99
2024$375, 000$115.70
2025$400, 000$123.42
Budgeted Special Service Levy Rates, 2021-2025

If the rates are based on previous years, why are increases planned for the next five years?

The rates shown are estimates: it’s better to plan for a higher cost and have budget room left over than to plan for a lower cost and come up short at the end of the year. Therefore, the City bases projections assuming an 8% increase to repair costs every year.

If the cost of service repairs is lower than expected in the previous years, then it will be lower than the fees shown above. If they are higher than expected, there will be a public hearing held before officially amending the plan.

Though the City of Thompson budgets for increases, the actual levy rate fluctuates every year:

YearTotal Cost of RepairsSpecial Service Levy Rate
2020$241, 542.00$74.55
2019$224, 046.00$69.15
2018$352, 115.60$108.69
2017$271, 512.00$82.80
2016$379, 306.80$117.07
Special Service Levy Rates, 2016-2020

What’s The Difference Between Private Insurance and the Special Service Levy?

The Special Service Levy is a substitute to insurance services offered by many private insurance providers. There are advantages and disadvantages to both:

SERVICE LEVY

Cost: The Service Levy cost is based on the previous year’s total cost of service line repairs. This means it will go up some years, and go down other years, and it’s not always in your control. However, your payments don’t go up just because there is a break on your property.

Coverage: The City of Thompson has never denied coverage of a water break within the defined area of coverage, and works to remediate the property the following year.

Service: The City of Thompson provides excavation, plumbing, and remediation services.

PRIVATE INSURANCE

Cost: Your insurance premium is based primarily on your claim history, and is not directly impacted by breaks in other parts of the community . However, if you have a service line break and you have to fix it, you’ll have to pay your insurance deductible, and your insurance premiums will likely go up.

Coverage: Depending on your policy and it’s conditions, an insurance company may refuse to cover the cost of your repair, and may not cover the remediation of your property following a dig.

Service: Under private insurance, you’ll likely have to hire a repair crew yourself. Depending on the services offered, you may need to hire an excavation crew and a plumber separately, and another firm to remediate your property afterwards.

Don’t My Property Taxes Cover Water Breaks Already?

Property taxes help pay for the administration of public property, like water mains, sewer mains, roads, and the staff employed to maintain and operate this property.

Service lines on private property are just that: private. In other municipalities, private homeowners are responsible for the full cost of service line repair and remediation in addition to their regular property taxes.

I have something to say. How do I register for the Public Hearing?

You can attend the meeting remotely through Zoom by clicking here.

You can register to attend the meeting in person or to make a presentation for or against, by calling 204-677-7938 or emailing tparobec@thompson.ca.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage presenters to register to attend or present to the meeting remotely if they are able.

COVID-19 Vaxport In Thompson Takes Shape Through Collaboration

The delivery of the COVID-19 Vaxport program in the City of Thompson is beginning to take shape, and the City of Thompson is proud to be working with the Province of Manitoba and our regional partners to ensure the program’s delivery meets the needs of Thompsonites and northern Manitobans as a whole.

The City of Thompson has been engaged with the Province since the Vaxport site was announced on January 5, 2021 in order to ensure the roll-out plans best serve Thompson and northern Manitoba.

Mayor Colleen Smook notes that changes and adjustments will always be a part of charting new and unknown territory, and the City of Thompson had, and continues to have, ample opportunity to provide input.

“We’re disappointed that provincial media has portrayed our relationship with the province as terse and oppositional,” said Mayor Smook. “We’ve kept close contact with our provincial ministries since day one of the pandemic to ensure northern voices are heard, and that relationship hasn’t changed. We suggested improvements to the delivery of Vaxport in Thompson, and the Province listened.”

The Vaxport program will utilize the Thompson Regional Community Center and the Thompson Regional Airport to distribute doses of the Pfizer vaccine to local patients as well as those from remote outlying communities, respectively.

The airport is being utilized as doses of the Moderna vaccine are limited, and the Pfizer vaccine cannot be easily transported and stored at remote locations. Patients from remote communities will need to be transported to receive the vaccine in a more accessible location, and delivering the vaccine directly at the airport minimizes exposure across communities.

The TRCC, closed under Critical status restrictions, provides an accessible location for pedestrians, motorists, and public-transit users, as well as ample room for safe social distancing. It is also a well-known facility for locals and visitors, and easily accessible for intercity transport by land.

Thompson was selected for the Vaxport program as recognized northern hub for healthcare and transportation that is equipped to receive air and ground traffic from across northern Manitoba. “Thompson has been a medical hub for northern Manitobans for more than three decades,” said Mayor Smook. “We understand the challenges of the north, and we’re well-equipped to meet them.”

The Vaxport program is expected to open in Thompson on February 1.

Council Approves $500, 000 Gift from Canadian Jumpstart Charities To Construct New Multisport Court

Mayor and Council has approved a $500,000 gift from the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities to construct a new Inclusive Multisport Court in the existing Westdale Tot Lot, located on Thompson Drive near the intersection of Thompson Drive and Beaver Crescent.

The 13,200 square foot fully inclusive court will include opportunities for play for children of all abilities to experience a multitude of sport and adapted sport activities that include basketball, tennis, ball hockey, volleyball, pickleball, and more.

The court is marked with strong, contrasting colours to support users with visual impairments, lit up by high-powered LED lights, and features shaded, double-wide benches and wheelchair-accessible seating. The court is located along the City of Thompson’s existing wheelchair-accessible multi-use path.

The Inclusive Multisport Court is funded by a $500,000 gift from Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities and Thompson’s local Canadian Tire Dealer, Mike Howell. The contribution is provided as part of Jumpstart’s Inclusive Play Project, which focuses on accessible infrastructure and programming, to help give Canadian kids of all abilities access to sport and play.

The City of Thompson will provide $100,000 in project supports and ensure infrastructure is in place so that the court is fully accessible.

The court is expected to be constructed and completed in 2021.

“Affordable and accessible recreation is a priority of our council this term, and we’re thrilled to accept this gift from Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities,” said Mayor Colleen Smook. “We’d like to extend our thanks to Mike Howell, the Dealer of our local Canadian Tire location, who has been an active member of our Community Wellness and Safety Advisory Committee and an active member of our community at large.”

“Through Jumpstart’s Inclusive Play Project, the Charity is always looking for opportunities to help improve accessibility and inclusivity for kids across Canada,” said Mike Howell, Canadian Tire Dealer, Thompson. “Bringing a multisport court to the Thompson community will provide kids of all abilities with additional opportunities to access sport and play – opportunities that are needed now more than ever as we emerge from these challenging times.”

Council Approves New Committee Structure at 2020 Organizational Meeting of Council

Last night, at the City of Thompson’s annual Organizational Meeting of Council, Mayor and Council approved a new committee structure designed to streamline council business and improve the sharing of information among departments.

Mayor: Colleen Smook

Deputy Mayor: Duncan Wong

Legislative and Finance Committee

Formerly the Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs (LIGA) Committee and the Finance Committee

Many of the issues discussed at the original Finance committee are directly related to our lobbying efforts with other levels of government, such as grants, transfers, and provincial tax allocations. By combining Finance and LIGA committees, we can more closely align our lobbying efforts with our financial priorities.

  • Deputy Mayor Duncan Wong (Chair)
  • Councillor Valentino
  • Councillor Lundmark
  • Mayor Colleen Smook

Human Resources Committee

The structure of the Human Resources Committee remains largely unchanged.

Your Human Resources Committee Council members are:

  • Councillor Brian Lundmark (Chair)
  • Councillor Braden McMurdo
  • Mayor Colleen Smook

Public Works and Infrastructure Committee

Formerly the Public Works Committee and (partially) Development Review Committee

Infrastructure, asset management, and capital projects like road renewal and building renovations have long been the responsibility of the Development Review Committee, while maintenance activities have functioned separately under Public Works. Now, decisions surrounding upgrades will be made hand-in-hand with the departments responsible for maintaining them in the long-term. This can help is better identify areas that need attention, and better overview of the lifetime cost of new assets and infrastructure.

Your Public Works and Infrastructure Committee council members are:

  • Councillor Kathy Valentino (Chair)
  • Councilllor Brian Lundmark
  • Mayor Colleen Smook

Recreation and Community Services Committee

Formerly the Recreation Committee and Public Safety Committee

The Community Safety Survey published in August reinforced the connection between recreation, community services, social cohesion and public safety in Thompson. As a direct result, Council has integrated Public Safety and Recreation committees into the single Recreation and Community Services Committee. Public safety will continue to be discussed in the committee, while recreation will be approached with an emphasis on accessibility and community-building, and how Thompson’s built environment can both foster community while ensuring safety.

Your Recreation and Community Services Committee councillors are:

  • Councillor Braden McMurdo (Chair)
  • Councillor Kathy Valentino
  • Mayor Colleen Smook

Development Review Committee

The Development Review Committee structure remains largely unchanged, with the exception that capital projects are more substantially discussed in the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. Otherwise, the committee will continue to review business and zoning applications within the city.

  • Councillor Andre Proulx (Chair)
  • Councillor Jeff Fountain
  • Mayor Colleen Smook

Communications Committee

The Communications Committee has been dissolved: communications activities will now be planned within existing committee frameworks and centrally supported by the Communications Officer. This way, news is more directly delivered to the Communications department, and public awareness initiatives can be coordinated more directly with the departments they serve.

City of Thompson Responds to Treatment of Detainee, Changes to CSO Oversight and Public Safety Strategy

Recently, a news organization has released a video from January 2018 that involves the detention of a young Indigenous woman under the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act (IPDA) by the City’s Community Safety Officers (CSOs) in the local RCMP cells.

As the case is currently before the courts, we cannot release all of the details, but we want to provide you with an update on the latest information and the actions that have been taken.

Though the altercation happened in January 2018, neither the Mayor’s office nor City Manager’s office was informed of what had transpired until seven months later, in August 2018, when Manitoba Justice reached out to Thompson’s Director of Fire and Public Safety at the time. In turn, he reached out to the RCMP to get an update. The CSO was cleared by RCMP’s Use of Force Expert at the time, and no disciplinary action was taken.

A copy of the security footage was not provided to the city by the RCMP, and the current administration is viewing parts of this footage for the first time. Once the City receives a copy of the full video through the court process, the City will review the footage to determine our next steps.

Since the incident, the following changes to the CSO program have been implemented:

  • As of May 2020, supervision of CSO’s has returned to a dedicated Public Safety Manager to ensure proper oversight, and that the mandated training, which includes use of force and cultural proficiency training, is adhered to;
  • When use-of-force incidents occur in the future, the City has asked the RCMP to immediately notify the City of Thompson’s Public Safety Manager and City Manager;
  • The City Manager, in consultation with the Public Safety Manager and HR, will conduct an investigation.

There has been significant change-over at the City of Thompson since the incident, both in administration and among Mayor and Council. Since the turn-over at the end of 2018, administration and City Council quickly recognized that the previous approach to public safety was not working.

Since February 2020, the City of Thompson, the Province of Manitoba, and 20 different community organizations have been working together to create an all-encompassing public safety strategy, with the help of independent consultants Community Safety and Knowledge Alliance. This includes representatives from education, social services, healthcare, addictions treatment, and Indigenous government organizations. Reducing the role of conventional law enforcement in addressing mental health and intoxication is a top priority of this strategy.

Supporting this strategy is the announcement of a new $2.8 million sobering center last June. This center will provide 24/7 safe and secure space where non-violent, intoxicated people can stay until they sober up under trained supervision, independent from law enforcement. This will help reduce the involvement of law enforcement in the care of intoxicated individuals, as well as help connect clients with wrap-around social services who can help them address addictions.

The City of Thompson commissioned a Community Safety and Well-being Strategy, and from that, we have now identified our strategic priorities, including:

  • Lessen youth exposure to crimes as victims, witnesses, and perpetrators;
  • Lessen the frequency and burden of problematic alcohol use on individuals and the community;
  • Reduce factors driving the demand on policing resources from social disorder calls;
  • Enhance experiences of social inclusion and Justice and reduce systemic and other forms of racism;
  • Expand safe and attainable shelter and housing options for people experiencing vulnerabilities;
  • Renew and better maintain the environment in Thompson to improve how people can connect to strengthen social cohesion.

The City of Thompson is committed to working with all of our stakeholders in the community to follow through on all of these initiatives that, in turn, will make for a better community for all of us.

As Mayor Smook has stated before, “We need to recognize that we are working to fix issues over three decades in the making, but with a sustained, committed effort, we will see a safer, healthier Thompson.”

Thompson YWCA COVID-19 Outbreak Update – Contingency Plan in Effect – What’s Open and What’s Not

This press release has been prepared by the YWCA. We are distributing it on their behalf at their request.

(Thompson MB – Oct 16, 2020) A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared and remains in effect at the YWCA in Thompson in an effort to stop any further spread of the virus at the facility. The public heath investigation has identified that the risk to short-term stay residents is low, however, out of an abundance of caution, public health has recommended self monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms to anyone who stayed at the YWCA between October 4 – 14, 2020.

“We thank the public and our partners for their outpouring of support during this challenging time,” Executive Director Kim Hickes said. “The outbreak is contained on the third floor and it’s important for the public to know that we are maintaining our operations in the rest of the building as best we can.”

The Y’s Shelter in Place Program (SHIPP) operates from the third floor. The program is self-contained on the third floor of the YWCA: program participants access the building through the separate entrance, and interactions with staff and clients outside of this program are extremely limited. Visitor access has been restricted as a result.

The SHIPP initiative was developed earlier this year to address concerns over COVID-19 and Thompson’s homeless residents.

Public Health staff from the Northern Health Region are conducting contact tracing and are supervising the staff and clients currently in isolation.

“We really need a community effort to support the Y and its operations as they work with health officials to contain and address this outbreak,” YWCA Board President Charlene Lafreniere said. “Kindness and understanding go a long way at a time like this and we know if we work together as Northerners, we can beat this.”

Media Contact:
Kim Hickes, Executive Director YWCA
(204) 679-7069

Background information on the SHIPP initiative can be found here: https://northernernews.ca/2020/04/18/ywca-first-wave-homeless-pandemic