Food and Shelter

An Endless Quest to Survive

Written by Keza Uwitonze, Law Student, Robson Hall

On July 1, 2023, changes were enacted to the Canada-Manitoba Housing Benefit (CMHB), in which Manitobans with lower incomes were given a better chance of finding affordable housing.

Those eligible for the benefit were identified as “[people] who need help paying for housing costs, including youth transitioning out of the care of Child and Family Services, people who are at risk of homelessness or who are homeless and people living with mental health and addiction issues [at] designated supportive housing buildings.”[1]

Given the rising cost of living, it’s helpful that the Government would assist in the safety of its residents. The hallmarks of the CMHB include “increasing the benefit amount to a maximum of $350 per month for all recipients of the CMHB, from $250 per month [and] providing an additional $72 on top of the maximum benefit for anyone paying a cold rent (rent that does not include utilities)”[2] Both of these changes were made retroactive to April 1 of this year.

But the most interesting changes made to the benefit were the removal of “the two-year time limit of the benefit for youth transitioning out of care and people living with mental health and addiction issues.”[3] Transitioning out of this precarious time in a person’s life can be a daunting task, especially with the figurative clock above one’s head counting down the moment when government assistance will be denied. By eliminating the time limit entirely, Manitobans at risk of homelessness can focus on both recovery and reacclimation into society. And perhaps these are the more pertinent goals we should aim for collectively.

The benefit also raises “the age of CMHB eligibility for youth transitioning out of care to 26,”[4] adding another five years on to the restriction. This is significant because “when a young person is aged out of the system, they usually lack the necessary support system to transition into adulthood.”[5] An extra five years is an excellent opportunity for the younger adult to make/increase community connections and find the resources necessary to succeed.

The ever-present housing crisis runs parallel to an urgent need from food banks to combat the growing number of Manitobans struggling against inflation. In 2022, Harvest Manitoba saw “thousands of Manitobans, many who have jobs, needing help to put food on the table.”[6] This translates to a reported “40 per cent” increase in food bank users (or 40,000 people) that same year.[7] Ultimately, the government granted Harvest Manitoba $3 million “to help support food banks in urban and rural communities in Manitoba.”[8] But that does not change the fact that job security no longer guarantees food security, and with that, we’ve seen an unprecedented stress on a vital resource to Manitobans throughout the province.

Food insecurity is a systemic problem which already attacks the most vulnerable members of society, including the unhoused and the unemployed. In resolving (or attempting to resolve) issues of housing and a heavy demand at food banks, we’ve created a temporary solution to a broader and more damaging problem. But the use of the Canada-Manitoba Housing Benefit and the grant for Harvest Manitoba are steps towards reconciling with the rising cost of living and its wider effects on Manitobans.

Food and shelter are the basic necessities of life. It’s a vital access to justice issue for these systemic problems to be dealt with by our government, for the health, safety, and security of all who live under its laws.

[1] “New Housing Benefit Changes to Support Low-Income Manitobans in Housing Need” (09 May 2023), online: CISION <> [].

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Swidda Rassy, “CMHB: Manitoba increasing eligibility age for youth transitioning out of care” (10 May 2023), online: CityNews <> [].

[6] Danton Unger, “Harvest Manitoba says food banks seeing more people with jobs, more kids than ever before” (20 December 2022), online: CTV News Winnipeg <> [].

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

The views expressed in these blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba and should not be construed as legal advice or endorsement.

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