From businesses to health clinics and the gym, places across Saskatoon are adapting amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but they’re not the only ones.
Shelters have had to get creative to help keep the city’s homeless and most vulnerable safe.
Walking into the shelter, there are around 60 mats spread out across the floor in several rooms. Keeping sleeping people six feet apart means places like the dining hall are now makeshift bedrooms.
“It was a very big communal space, everybody kind of talking to one another,” explained Miriah Krochak, food services manager at the Lighthouse Saskatoon.
“That part of life at the Lighthouse has kind of gone for right now.”
Food is now serviced with plastic cutlery and Styrofoam containers. For people staying in the shelter’s supported living units, they get a nice surprise: food brought to their doors.
“Honestly a lot of them love it, it’s like room service every day, three times a day,” laughs Krochak.
“I mean what more could you ask for?”
Company, as it turns out. While some might consider room service a perk, it cuts down on socializing.
“As much as they love the room service, some of them are definitely missing their friends,” Krochak said.
The Lighthouse even brought in a snack cart to boost morale, serving chocolates, pop and other treats.
Across the shelter, a managed alcohol program was set up as a response to the pandemic. These programs help people with chronic addictions to alcohol by prescribing them a certain amount they can drink, and dispensing it every hour or so.
The shelter already has one program like this, but staff worried it wasn’t enough to keep vulnerable people off the streets during a pandemic so they brought in this second, unfunded program.
“If they stopped drinking alcohol, they would have serious health consequences,” explained Anna Pacik, the Lighthouse’s communications manager
“These folks would probably be the city’s most vulnerable folks, who are also three to four times more likely to catch COVID-19 and to have some serious side effects.”
Up to 10 people use this new program every day.
“This is really just caring for the city’s most vulnerable folks and making sure that they survive through COVID-19,” Pacik said.
Pacik said some of the city’s homeless were moved into housing units with the Saskatchewan Housing Authority, but for many they haven’t lived in a house for years, and it can be tough to understand the basics like paying bills and who you should and shouldn’t let into the home.
She said the pandemic shows a system that needs more support, both for the people in shelters, and anyone trying to get out.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
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. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.
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