Concerns about homeless shelters in Winnipeg are on the rise, as the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the province coincides with the traditionally more intense season in the sector.
“The pressure on the system as a whole shows that if there is a rapid increase in the number of people trying to enter space, or if there is a really large-scale outbreak in one or more places, it could create a perfect storm scenario,” said Chris Clemens, End Homelessness Winnipeg. community relations manager.
The pressure, she said, was due in part to the fact that so many workers were now working from home and in part to the fact that many shelters were almost inaccessible.
“It simply came to our notice then. But they are still fulfilling, ”says Clemens.
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Shelter operators have met with health officials since the start of the pandemic to develop strategies for responding to the pandemic.
Clemens says the last of those meetings on Thursday focused on discussing the potential impact of the Omicron variant.
“There are indications that there may still be many COVID cases in our community over the holidays and in the years to come, and again the sector will have to turn around, adapt and propose new strategies,” says Clemens. .
The weather is particularly daunting, as many in the industry felt they had “turned the corner” in the autumn after a successful vaccine awareness campaign.
In the Siloam mission, meanwhile, communications chief Luke Thiessen says the shelter has already taken steps to reduce COVID following a recent small-scale outbreak.
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“We’ve already started to turn on a lot by switching to medical masks, adding face protection, eye protection for those working in the front areas, and starting quick tests,” says Thiessen.
In addition, Thiessen says the shelter stunned catering and built barriers in night shelter locations to help with social isolation.
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“Capacity is really an issue that we look at differently from program to program, depending on space,” says Thiessen.
Across the sector, Clemens says shelters are working together to ensure everyone is safe and has a roof over their heads, but officials are preparing contingency plans if capacity is reached or relocation from one shelter is no longer possible due to COVID outbreaks.
Clemens says the grace of rescue for all involved was the provision of alternative isolation facilities (AIAs) throughout the city.
These sites are for people who do not have secure housing or access to safe housing and need to isolate themselves due to the symptoms of COVID.
In a statement, a provincial spokesman for Global News said the AIA capacity on December 22. was 50 percent.
“It simply came to our notice then. the province has the opportunity to increase capacity if necessary, ”the spokesman said by e-mail.
Clemens says all of this shows the need for more secure, permanent housing in the city.
“We hope that this fifth wave can also encourage decision-makers and leaders to take action on the supply of urgently needed housing to close the gaps in the local housing continuum,” says Clemens.
Homelessness in Winnipeg
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