The West End 24 Hour Safe Space (WE24), a branch of the Spence Neighbourhood Association (SNA), is providing a safe, positive environment for youth in the West End of Winnipeg.
WE24 “is a safe space for youth to access basic needs and supports: clothing, food and love,” Jamil Mahmood, executive director of the SNA, says.
He says the safe space is run from
11 p.m. to 7 a.m. seven days a week. It’s open on weekends and runs overnight during school holidays as well.
The space offers food, shelter, hygiene items and safe transportation for youth and young adults. Mahmood says the organization generally tends to many homeless youth, to whom they offer positive relationships.
WE24 works with other branches of the SNA as well as partner organizations in the city that have similar mandates.
WE24 “is one of the only places you can go to. There’s only three safe spaces within Winnipeg ... and many of the places you can go around the North End of Winnipeg are on Main: Salvation Army, Main Street Project and Siloam Mission,” Sean Sousa, WE24 manager, says.
Being a member of Winnipeg’s Cold Weather Strategy, SNA is allowed to run the safe space shelter seven nights a week until March 31. Other members of the strategy include the Rainbow Resource Centre and West Central Women’s Resource Centre.
The strategy, funded by the City of Winnipeg, allows certain city shelters to remain open during extremely cold weather in order to support the most vulnerable people in the city. Outside of that, WE24 works to end youth homelessness.
“We have a coalition of three similar locations: us, Rossbrook House and Ndinawe, and we’re also a part of the broader Winnipeg plan to end youth homelessness,” Mahmood says.
He says together, these organizations help to spread each other’s presence in the city.
Mahmood says that the organization’s government funding is spent on maintaining the program to ensure that they remain open for all young people in the West End to access. They also do fundraisers to keep their resources high.
“Winnipeggers are awesome. When we put a call out for things like tampons and other hygiene products, we got probably 10,000. Whenever we put a call out, Winnipeggers respond, and it’s really easy to get blankets, warm clothes and things like that,” Mahmood says.
He says their issue is keeping enough funding for staff who need to be well-trained and able to stay at certain points throughout the day in order to keep the safe space open.
Though the majority of their time is spent running the 24 Hour Safe Space, WE24 still holds events for the West End community.
“We usually do a community celebration twice a year, usually one in the spring and one in the fall. It’s a chance to report back to the community,” Sousa says.
He says WE24 has a student committee that meets quarterly. They also have community members coming to the safe space to share what’s happening in the area and hear feedback on issues in the community, so that they can help develop possible solutions for them.