Communities across Canada grappling with the COVID-19 outbreak are also rising to the challenge of keeping people safe. So many people on the front lines of the homelessness crisis are taking inspiring actions and leading the way through this pandemic. This blog is a part of our Bright Spot series highlighting outstanding work in ending homelessness happening across Canada.
Communities across Canada are working around the clock to make sure people experiencing homelessness have a safe space to not only self-isolate but also call home.
From rapid rehousing initiatives to increased shelter spaces, here is a sample of community resourcefulness across Canada so far:
- A collective of community and health-care organizations in Guelph launched a Supported Isolation Centre for people experiencing homelessness to self-isolate. Almost every social and health-care leader worked around the clock to move swiftly and open this centre up, which normally would have taken weeks or months to happen. Now community workers will be trained on how to properly use PPE (masks, gloves, etc.) and it has established best cleaning practices.
- Toronto has seen 15 households get matched with housing and are in the process of getting moved in through its Rapid Housing Access Initiative, which is helping to prioritize access to housing for existing shelter clients in Toronto Community Housing. An additional 50 units have been identified for move-in in the coming weeks and particularly vulnerable individuals are being prioritized (including seniors). Clients are being referred through the Coordinated Access system and provided with supports for maximum housing stability.
- Calgary emergency shelters are urgently working to find permanent housing for families amid the outbreak. The Inn from the Cold team has quickly reduced capacity in their family emergency shelter, and in just five days they transitioned 14 families into their very own apartments.
- Vancouver has opened its first community centres to protect people experiencing homelessness from COVID-19. While many municipalities, if not all at this point, have been shutting down public spaces, Vancouver is one of a growing number of communities opening them back up for people who are otherwise unable to distance themselves from others. BC is also working on a safe drug supply for drug users.
- Ottawa has opened an isolation and treatment centre in a recreation centre, specifically for folks with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 who don’t have a home to isolate in. The facility is filled with beds, linens, medical supplies and “everything someone would need to serve out their isolation period.” People with addictions are less likely to leave the centre before their isolation is through.
- Edmonton is using its Expo Centre as a designated overflow location for homeless shelters and will have a drop-in and health-care services. It’s a large space that allows for social distancing while shelters are limiting their capacity to hinder COVID-19 spread.
We applaud all the efforts happening across Canada by communities working with urgency and compassion. Your resilience is inspiring to all of us, and what you’re doing is critical to ending homelessness.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the CAEH will be focused on protecting Canadians experiencing homelessness by supporting community responses. One way we are supporting communities is by working with the Canadian Network for Health and Housing of People Experiencing Homelessness to post resources and tools. Those resources can be found by clicking here.
The COVID-19 pandemic provides a tragic and costly reminder of the urgent need to end homelessness in Canada. As Canadians are experiencing directly today, housing is health care. We will not rest until all Canadians have safe, decent and permanent housing where they can be protected from the ravages of another pandemic.
This blog is a part of our Bright Spot series highlighting outstanding work in ending homelessness happening across Canada.