Some people experiencing homelessness in Saskatoon are temporarily off the street while waiting for the novel coronavirus.
It’s part of a new initiative to help stop the spread of COVID-19 among the city’s most vulnerable. Global News is choosing not to name the hotel.
Opening hotel rooms for the homeless was one of the initiatives the City of Saskatoon was calling for from the province to protect them and the general public.
If someone goes to a testing centre and they don’t have a way to self-isolate, they could get a room to wait for results on a case-by-case basis.
No one who has stayed at the hotel has had a positive test result as of Tuesday, April 21.
However, when many people’s tests come back negative, they’re sent back out onto the street or into shelters.
“We’re seeing more and more people who have been cleared medically to leave and we have nowhere to send them, we have no options,” said Julia Holliday-Scott, lead with Saskatoon’s Hotel Sheltering group.
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She said many people experiencing housing issues can live with up to 15 people in one home — living arrangements that make it nearly impossible to self-isolate and stop the spread.
Nine people are currently self-isolating in the hotel. The initiative is run by the Saskatchewan Health Authority, Emergency Social Services, AIDS Saskatoon and the Lighthouse.
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People stay in self-isolation in hotel rooms until they test negative and shown no symptoms for 48 hours.
Global News visited the hotel. Inside, cleaning staff are covered head to toe in personal protective gear, and a guard keeps watch in the hall.
There are medical teams and social services on site.
While at the hotel, people are assessed to see what they need — from medications and ways to call loved ones, to a plan for housing once they leave.
But shelters are nearing capacity, and right now there’s nowhere else to send people, according to Holliday-Scott.
Some have been able to stay with family or friends, but she says the majority are going right back on the street.
“Releasing somebody back to homelessness, inevitably they end up back at the shelter and inevitably they are showing symptoms again and sent back to the testing centre, in which case they come back to the hotel,” she said.
This hasn’t happened yet, but Holliday-Scott worries the virus will spread quickly if it does.
She wants to see a plan created to house the homeless once they’re released from the hotel.
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.