Despite the region opening an additional shelter to help Durham’s homeless population, there are still many people living on the streets.
However, there is a facility where a number of organizations are working together to help those individuals during the coronavirus pandemic.
Back Door Mission, located behind the Simcoe Street United Church in Oshawa, provides a number of resources and services for homeless people. Since the pandemic began, it has partnered with multiple social services agencies, including the Canadian Mental Health Association, Region of Durham Social Services and the John Howard Society, to create Mission United.
Mission United provides a centralized location for mental health, crisis counselling and withdrawal management and a rest centre. Individuals can also receive a daily meal between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Gary Doucette, 73, says that while the rest of the world looks forward to the end of the pandemic, the response to the outbreak has allowed him and others to access resources like never before.
“This wouldn’t be happening. Actually, this is the best thing that’s ever happened in my life,” he said.
Before entering the building, people are pre-screened. If they are sick, medical staff will come outside. However, the infected individual is not allowed in the building.
“Our focus in being here is to send a message to the unsheltered population that they’re important, that their needs matter,” said Stephanie Skopyk, a nurse practitioner with CMHA Durham.
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“Although some of these issues are not new issues, we certainly are in a position to respond.”
Oshawa Ward 4 Coun. Derek Giberson is putting in 12-hour days at the facility, determined to help those in need.
“The pandemic is affecting a lot of people and putting a lot of people under stress, and that is more so for those who are already on the margins,” Giberson said.
“They really are in a state of crisis.”
On its busiest days, the hub can see up to 140 individuals. For those who are ill, Giberson says there are plans in place to help them.
“The overflow hotel program in Ajax is for anyone who pre-screens, even before getting the swab and getting their test results back,” he said.
Giberson says the region is doing “everything they can to see as few people slip through the cracks right now.”