Winnipeg mobile overdose prevention site obtains winter funding

Jan 18, 2024

 Sunshine House, Manitoba’s only mobile overdose prevention site, received over $375,000 in funding for the unit in December 2023 as part of its fundraising initiative. Specifically, Sunshine House has operated as an RV in Winnipeg and provided individuals harm reduction supplies and free drug testing for over a year. In addition, staff at Sunshine House’s RV also provide HIV rapid tests and referrals to other necessary services, such as housing and addiction treatment.

The funding provided to Sunshine House by Health Canada was scheduled to end in October 2023, and consequently, the drop-in and resource centre that operates the overdose prevention RV began fundraising to keep it operating throughout the winter.

Earlier in December, Sunshine House announced receiving over $375,000 in funding, including $250,000 from the Winnipeg Foundation, $72,728 from an amendment to its existing agreement with Health Canada, and $55,000 in grassroots funding.

According to the Winnipeg-based drop-in and resource centre, Sunshine House received 28,000 visits since opening in October 2022, and currently receives about 200 on a daily basis.

 A news release published The site has supervised nearly 8,000 instances of drug use and conducted 391 drug tests since it opened, a Tuesday news release says. The mobile site has been operating for five days a week with four staff, and the new funding will allow it to stay open in Winnipeg until March.

“It also means that we can add a couple evenings to the schedule, which is really exciting,” Davey Cole, co-ordinator of the mobile site program, said in his interview with CBC. “It gets darker in winter. We’re battling so many more different elements and whatnot to stay connected and keep people safe.”

Cole also noted that the increasing drug toxicity is a major issue in Winnipeg, fueling the need for harm reduction services. “It’s quite concerning,” Cole said. “Folks are buying what they think might be meth, but then it has opioids in it, and that can cause a really complex overdose situation.”

Sunshine House received a federal exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in October 2022 in order to operate in Winnipeg’s downtown, West End, North End, and Point Douglas communities. It will continue to seek more grants and core funding to continue operating, Cole added.

“We just believe that everybody deserves a chance to make it and be loved,” said Cole. “[And], ultimately, that’s what we’re just doing here is making sure that people don’t die.”

Provincial health data demonstrates that in the first three months of 2022, there were 63 confirmed fatalities due to overdose and 15 suspected overdose deaths in the first three months of 2022.

In October, Manitoba’s provincial NDP government announced its plans to establish a supervised consumption site in downtown Winnipeg, while addictions minister Bernadette Smith has been assigned to work with other cabinet ministers to reach this goal.