Above Picture: Marion Willis, (Mayor) Brian Bowman, Brad Mason President of DMS, And Peter Grose, President of Westland Construction, President Winnipeg Construction Association

Strict building codes could shutter home for transient men, founder says

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Morberg House on Provencher Blvd., a care facility for homeless men with substance abuse and mental health conditions, built in 1905, is at risk of being closed this fall, after operating for 2 years. The reason behind this decision are the renovations that have to be completed by October 1st which will improve the building’s fire-resistance rating and safety exits.

The issue arose earlier this year when a mattress was lit on fire by a resident in the midst of a meth psychosis. Since then, the officials at Morberg House were instructed to install smoke detectors with 10-year batteries and carbon monoxide detectors, which was done immediately. However, in May, when it was time to apply to have the property rezoned as a care home on a conditional basis, they learned that more changes were needed to meet fire safety regulations for care homes. Thanks to the members of Winnipeg’s construction industry volunteering labor and materials, the majority of the required upgrades were doable. The plan included hardwiring-in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, adding a sprinkler system and exit signs, and installing an exterior fire escape for the upper two floors. However, Morberg House still cannot get permits for the work planned.

Brad Mason, president of DMS Industrial Constructors, was the main donor. His company is going to fabricate the fire escape and install it along with sprinklers and fire detectors. He pegs the value of the work at $200,000. But, he says that the main reason for not getting the permits for the renovation is due to the scope of the work growing with every passing week with the city now asking for "almost an entire rebuild."

The officials at Morberg House want to meet with city fathers to discuss what makes Morberg different than a conventional care home in hope that an in-person meeting could result in a compromise that will make all parties happy. Otherwise, they may have to send their 12 current residents to live under bridges and on park benches, which they find unacceptable.