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Camp Samac housing homeless people in Durham during coronavirus pandemic

Camp Samac used to house homeless in Durham
Many shelters across the region have been reaching capacity, and that has led to camp grounds being used to house the homeless. Brittany Rosen has more.

With physical-distancing measures in place during the coronavirus pandemic, some homeless shelters in Durham have cut their intake in half, leaving hundreds of individuals with no place to go.

“Everybody deserves a home but the reality is there isn’t a home for everybody,” says Christeen Thornton with DIRE, a grassroots organization that works closely with Oshawa’s homeless community.

The region has designated Camp Samac in north Oshawa to provide shelter to homeless people.

READ MORE: Oshawa man delivers cardboard ‘shelters’ to homeless people in Durham

However, Thornton says there are still some concerns.

“You still have to pass a test, and if you’re sick, where are you going to go? What are you going to do?” she said.

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“These are concerns that have been brought up to us by individuals who are living on the streets right now and they’re at a point where they don’t know what to do so they just don’t care.”

However, Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter says there are resources in place for homeless people who are sick, suggesting a possible case of miscommunication.

“Those individuals that may have COVID-19 or have been identified as showing the symptoms, we’ve taken the extraordinary steps,” he said.

Carter says Oshawa is currently using hotel and motel programs, sheltering programs and Camp Samac to house those who are ill.

READ MORE: ‘I can’t even describe it’ — Oshawa man sleeps in frigid conditions to support homeless

The campground is currently home to 25 individuals and has a maximum capacity of 40 due to physical-distancing measures. Men and women are living in separate spaces.

Residents will have access to food, supplied by Durham College, laundry services, counselling and mental health services.

Still, Carter says, there are others who are currently in need.

“Unfortunately, through COVID-19, we’ve seen an increase in regards to individuals who are fleeing domestic violence or the sex trade industry, we have to look after children, we’ve got youth at our programs.”

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READ MORE: 11-year-old Sunderland boy helping homeless with sleeping bag drive

Fortunately, Back Door Mission, a hub for homeless people in downtown Oshawa, has served as a helpful resource for those in need of assistance. The site is also where people are tested for the coronavirus before being approved to live at Camp Samac.

Carter says there are currently no plans in place to open additional emergency shelters in the region.