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Locals Call for Closure of Manwin

A group rallied on Main Street late last week to call for the closure of the infamous Manwin Hotel. Organizers of the groups present say the hotel puts locals at risk and is detrimental to the community.  

The rally was comprised of community advocates and outreach workers who assist individuals experiencing homelessness. The hotel, they argue, is an unlivable hazard. Protestors have argued that Manwin is unsuitable for anyone to stay at, let alone live in. The dank hotel is not criticized for being shabby, as protestors’ claims go far beyond sanitation complaints.  

Located at 655 Main Street between Logan Avenue and Henry, the Manwin Hotel is notorious in Winnipeg for violent crimes within its walls, including stabbings, assaults, drug overdoses and even homicides. In the last six years, at least four homicides have happened at the Manwin. In 2023, two homicides have taken place at the Manwin, adding to the unfortunate reputation the building has come to have. A homicide victim was found there in 2017, while another was discovered there in 2020. 

Protestors gathered last Friday because they saw the Manwin as an unsafe place which houses violence and hard drugs. It is not uncommon to see the Manwin Hotel atop headlines detailing violent atrocities and police presence. 

Co-owner Akim Kambamba has said that while the group has every right to gather and protest his establishment, their opinions are unjustified. Kambamba has told reporters the Manwin is a communal resource, acting as housing for people who have nowhere else to live. Kambamba has denied allegations that the hotel is a hotbed for violence. He has also stated he is working hard to improve the building, citing approval from public health officials that the hotel has the right to operate. 

On the day of the rally, the Manwin could be seen to have several windows shattered or boarded up. The building’s front is covered in graffiti and stained red brick on the main floor. Approximately 50 people were calling for the Manwin Hotel’s closure on Friday the 13th. The hotel has been described by many from the protest as reeking of mould and garbage upon entry. The ceilings and floors are visibly sunken, and debris can be seen scattered in suites. Some doors are chained shut. Bare wires, unfinished floors, and visible drugs on the ground were also reported to have been found by protestors who walked members of the media through the Manwin, showcasing what they are fighting to have the city close. 

Some have criticized the Manwin owner for allowing the clients to create the atmosphere rather than Kambamba himself setting a standard for what is acceptable. According to critics, without continually reaffirming health and safety expectations via the owner, the clients Kambamba allows to stay create an unsafe atmosphere. 

Kambamba has said in recent days that there simply is no violence at the Manwin. Additionally, he claims the building is presently under renovation to meet official standards and that the building provides a safe place for tenants to live. 

Among tenants are people on the brink of experiencing full homelessness. Many who gathered Friday said the Manwin was only operating as it does because the people staying here have no proper options. Were housing available for them through the city or province, the last ditch effort of living at the Manwin Hotel would not need to be undertaken by any of its tenants. 

The primary concern for protesters is finding housing for the people currently living in the 34 suites. As the gatherers have no hope the hotel will improve, they say it is best for those living there to be assisted to find alternative accommodations. Some who came to protest the Manwin to protest referred to it as something our city should be ashamed of.  

In 2021, the Manwin Hotel was closed temporarily after health inspectors found there was a lack of heat in the building, and the water supply was compromised, rendering the sprinkler system useless in the instance of a fire. Upon the temporary closure, several residents were assisted to find a temporary place to live while the building was improved to meet the requirements to house people. 

In August of this year, the Manitoba Government demanded ownership make a series of substantial improvements to the building. Inspectors took issue with the condition of windows, doors, and electrical problems, among others, all of which were reported below standard. Additionally, repairs were deemed necessary for showers, toilets, and pipes, while it was also stated that public washroom doors were to have locks installed. Inspectors have also pointed to pest control and lack of ventilation in washrooms as necessary changes to remain open. 

A follow-up pertaining to these repairs will take place later this month, with some changes expected to be done by October 20. 

There is no data accounting for how often police are called to the hotel, but a spokesperson from Winnipeg Police Services stated it is very common for the police to be called to the location. 

Many of the health and safety concerns about the hotel come from front-line workers who spend their time working with unhoused people in the area. Many people who cannot afford a proper home will pay rent at the hotel for short to long-term periods. 

Despite ownership continually saying the Manwin is a safe place and is improving, protestors were not swayed by the claims.  

As many of us have seen the Manwin Hotel in countless headlines, the true nature of what occurs inside is unknown to most. The calls for the hotel to be shut down come from advocates who work in the community. Some advocating the closure of the Manwin have also called it a hub for human trafficking. 

The Manwin offers a bar, VLTs, a beer vendor and a restaurant in addition to rooms in the hotel. There was no hotel security on-site on the day of the protest. 

A Brief History 

Originally opened as the Walker House in 1882, this building has gone by many names. Soon after opening, it was dubbed the Britannia Hotel and later called the Windsor Hotel. Around 1915, the hotel was yet again renamed; this time called the Maple Leaf Hotel. In 1950, the name was changed to the National Hotel, later becoming the Manwin Hotel. 

On April 18, 1918, two men staying in the hotel broke into the attached hardware store. Upon entering, the men were confronted by Constable Bernard Snowden, who they shot and killed. When they were found by police at a nearby bar, they were in possession of stolen goods, firearms, and used bullet casings. 

The two were hanged for their crime in October of the same year. 

On March 11, 1950, a mother of six was found murdered in one of the hotel rooms where a cook had been living. Martha Perrault was accused by her killer to have been poisoning her, thus instigating his actions against her. He, too, was hung for his crime. 

In 1975, a heavily intoxicated man was thrown out of the hotel, to which he returned brandishing a gun shooting five people. All five survived.  

– Matthew Harrison, U Multicultural

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