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Coronavirus: Islamic Relief Canada making hygiene kits for Saskatoon’s homeless

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WATCH: Islamic Relief Canada volunteers are making around 400 hygiene kits to help Saskatoon’s most vulnerable stay healthy – Apr 9, 2020

A group of volunteers in Saskatoon is making hygiene kits for the city’s most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s part of a nationwide movement by Islamic Relief Canada to keep people in need healthy and protect the community.

READ MORE: 7 new coronavirus cases, 12 recoveries reported in Saskatchewan

The kits include deodorant, soap, shampoo and conditioner, and sanitary napkins.

“Unfortunately there’s a lot of people in Saskatoon who live below the poverty line and are unable to keep themselves safe, so we’re hoping by making these hygiene kits we can help keep other people safe and thereby keep ourselves safe and flatten the curve,” said Arshviny Ollegasagrem.

The kits are going to The Lighthouse and the Salvation Army in Saskatoon, according to Ollegasagrem.

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They’re even including winter mitts and gloves after the shelters asked. In total, volunteers expect to make 400 kits for those struggling.

“When we see the vulnerable populations and people in those poverty situations struggling, if the infection does get to them it can spread quite quickly,” Ollegasagrem said.

“We’re hoping if we can help other people out and we can also keep everyone else safe as well.”

Jason Mercredi is lead at Saskatoon’s community hub at the White Buffalo Youth Lodge. It’s to help people experiencing homelessness or who need help.

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He says taking care of your hygiene may not be a priority for some.

“Most people on income assistance, after they pay all their bills and their rent, they’re only living on about $100 a month, and they still need to cover food with that,” he said.

“If they’re having to choose between eating and buying soap they’re going to choose eating because they do need that to live.”

Mercredi said worries about the virus spreading quickly within the vulnerable community once someone gets it.

He says more financial support for shelters like The Lighthouse are needed from the provincial government.

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“They are going to be our last line of defense for keeping the homeless population safe,” he said. Right now the shelter gets funding based on its ability to fill up the shelter, something that isn’t possible while following social distancing, according to Mercredi.

“If they can’t have the staff to support clientele to stay indoors that means they’re going to be running around the community, so they’re not self-isolating.”

On April 1, the City of Saskatoon made a public call to the Government of Saskatchewan to act faster to help the city’s most vulnerable.

READ MORE: City of Saskatoon calling on province to act now to help city’s homeless during pandemic

Since then, Mercredi says there’s been some headway on getting people without housing somewhere to stay.

Some hotels have provided rooms, but only on a case-by-case basis according to Mercredi, something he said is time consuming and is still leaving many people vulnerable.

The Saskatchewan housing authority is making 10 units available for people who need housing next week, according to Mercredi.

“[Wednesday] at the community hub we had 40 people that we served, 35 needed housing, so we’re going need more units available,” he said.
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Anyone looking for a hygiene kit are asked to contact the shelter, or Islamic Relief Canada’s Saskatoon chapter.

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.

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.