N.S. government working to address COVID-19 homelessness concerns

Click to play video: 'How Canadians self-isolate when they don’t have a home' How Canadians self-isolate when they don’t have a home
The provincial government is working with shelters in N.S. to develop a plan that aims to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread in vulnerable populations, like those experiencing homelessness. – Mar 18, 2020

Public health officials are working with community organizations and shelters across the Halifax Regional Municipality to develop a plan that will help reduce the threat of COVID-19 spread in populations of people who don’t have access to housing.

WATCH: Coronavirus outbreak: Canada’s homeless shelters brace for COVID-19

“Everybody’s taking this seriously, it’s really urgent. We’re really trying not to have any spread in the community because once it does then I’m really afraid that some of the shelters may have to close,” Jeff Karabanow said, one of the coordinators of the Out of the Cold: Emergency Winter Shelter in Halifax.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 5 new presumptive cases in Nova Scotia, bringing provincial total to 12

Nova Scotia public health announced five new presumptive cases on March 18, bringing the provincial total to 12.

Story continues below advertisement

Repeated calls by government for people to practice social distancing and stay home as much as possible, has led to concerns over how to mitigate the risk of spread in marginalized communities like those who don’t have access to stable housing.

Dr. Robert Strang
Public health officials are working with shelters in Nova Scotia to develop a COVID-19 contingency plan to reduce the risk of transmission in the vulnerable community. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

“They’re a very vulnerable population so what do we need to do to try to give them the support that they need to maintain the social distancing if somebody needs to be self isolated. So, that’s a very active piece of work that’s underway, led by government,” Dr. Robert Strang said, the provincial chief medical officer of health.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Karabanow says shelters have been regularly meeting with government officials to develop a strategy that aims to include access to community space that can provide self-isolation and social distancing, if required.

“We want to provide a small capacity, safe-space, that will most likely be staffed now, with employed staff, as oppose to volunteers. Hopefully, we’ll have some volunteers that can support us as well,” Karabanow said.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: ‘It’s just not possible’: How can B.C.’s homeless self-isolate, sanitize amid coronavirus pandemic?

While shelters wait for further direction from government and public health officials, other community organizations like the Brunswick Street Mission have adapted their services to fall in line with safety measures.

The mission serves a daily breakfast program that feeds between 50 to 70 people.

With COVID-19 precautions in mind, the mission has closed its dining room area and is keeping the breakfast program running by providing takeout to those in need of food.

Brunswick Street Dining Room
The Brunswick Street Mission has closed done their dining area due to COVID-19 concerns and have created a takeout breakfast program to continue serving vulnerable populations. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

The mission is now collaborating with other shelters to turn their kitchen into a “food hub”.

“We can be their kitchen, they don’t need that staff cooking and preparing and serving meals if we can offer that for them. So, right now we’re already working with Metro Turning Point,” Sandra Nicholas said, the executive director of Brunswick Street Mission.

Story continues below advertisement

The mission also runs a tax program that helps people file their taxes who otherwise wouldn’t be able to on their own.

Plexiglas booths have been built to create a safe space and distance between volunteer accountants and clients.

“It’s funny to think of taxes as a priority but what if you lose your child tax credit in three months because you didn’t get your taxes done now,” Nicholas said.



Sponsored content