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Pop-up COVID-19 isolation shelter for Winnipeg’s homeless won’t go ahead, organizers say

Inside the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain, where St. Boniface Street Links had plans to create a safe space for people experiencing homelessness who are looking to self-isolate.
Inside the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain, where St. Boniface Street Links had plans to create a safe space for people experiencing homelessness who are looking to self-isolate. Marion Willis / St. Boniface Street Links

Plans to create a pop-up isolation shelter for Winnipeg’s homeless population during the COVID-19 outbreak have fallen through after organizers say they experienced “significant challenges” in putting the project together.

Last week, St. Boniface Street Links (SBSL) announced it had rented out the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain (CCFM) to create a safe space for people experiencing homelessness during the worldwide pandemic.

The group had planned to set up 40 gym mats in the space, and a 24-hour paramedic service offered to provide training to staff and volunteers, as well as an ambulance and a complement of paramedics to work at the temporary shelter.

READ MORE: Live updates — Coronavirus in Canada

But in a release on Thursday, the partners involved in putting together the shelter said they have been forced to terminate the project following an incident that “temporarily threatened security.”

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The release says a volunteer suffered a health crisis, and as a precaution, police were called. The groups didn’t expand on the health crisis or say whether or not it was related to COVID-19.

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The volunteer was taken to hospital, and the CCFM building on Provencher Boulevard was closed for the day on Tuesday to ensure everyone’s safety, the partners said in the release.

“As a result, CCFM [and] SBSL agreed the temporary shelter should secure a more suitable venue,” the release reads.

“This decision, although unfortunate, is necessary in light of the challenges encountered.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Hair salons await answers from Manitoba provincial government

The CCFM says its building reopened to tenants and staff on Wednesday, although the public reception and programming continue to be suspended due to COVID-19.

St. Boniface Street Links says it continues to provide community outreach and support to those most in need.

There was no immediate word on plans to open the shelter a different location.

Coronavirus outbreak: Winnipeg homeless shelters brace for COVID-19
Coronavirus outbreak: Winnipeg homeless shelters brace for COVID-19

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.