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Coronavirus: Calgary reducing numbers in homeless shelters; relocating to hotels

The application for a liquor store near the Calgary Drop-In Centre is being discussed at city council. File / Global News

The City of Calgary will be decreasing the number of people staying in homeless shelters and housing some of them in hotels to try to limit the impact of COVID-19.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the number of spaces in each shelter is being shrunk by 400.

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He says it’s difficult for the homeless to social-distance or wash hands when they don’t have access to a sink or are sleeping shoulder to shoulder at a shelter.

Nenshi says the homeless sent to hotels will be at a low risk and don’t need 24-7 services.

The city is also working on providing spaces for individuals who are showing symptoms and need to be totally isolated.

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Nenshi says social distancing has to be put in place for anyone remaining in shelters, including barriers between sleep areas.

The mayor says dealing with homelessness during the pandemic is the greatest public health issue right now.

Sandra Clarkson, executive director with the Calgary Drop-In Centre, said the outbreak has also caused a surge in needs of resources outside of shelter.

“What we’re seeing as a huge demand, a rise in demand, is in our meal service,” Clarkson said.

“With the food bank closed, we are having to purchase a lot more food, so that drives up our costs immensely.”

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Clarkson said alongside overflow housing space, organizations have been very generous in donating food to shelters.

“Lots of restaurants have stepped up and have donated a lot of their food.”