Montreal homeless shelters fear impact of another COVID-19 lockdown

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Montreal’s homeless population at higher risk with lockdown, advocates worry'
Coronavirus: Montreal’s homeless population at higher risk with lockdown, advocates worry
WATCH: As Montreal's homeless population continues to grapple with ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19, shelters are reducing their hours, dealing with staffing shortages and a lack of resources. As Global’s Felicia Parrillo reports, they now fear the stricter measures will worsen the situation for the city's most vulnerable population – Jan 6, 2021

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, difficulties for Montreal’s homeless population are worsening.

After being closed for the holidays, Resilience Montreal reopened their doors on Monday. But things at the shelter are different than they were before.

Instead of being able to serve up to 80 clients a day, they’ve been reduced to allowing just 12 people at a time in their facility.

“Now, what we’re reduced to is essentially rushing people through a building — passing them a plate of food and a pair of pants on the way out the door, and they can’t even eat inside,” said David Chapman, project coordinator at the shelter.

READ MORE: Montreal homeless shelters ask for help as COVID-19 cases surge

An outbreak of COVID-19 has hit Montreal’s homeless community hard.

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It has infected staff and forced shelters to close, shift or reduce their services.

Chez Doris recently had to transfer their night services to a hotel, after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

“A night staff had tested positive and it had removed as many as eight employees from our roster,” said Marina Boulos, director of Chez Doris. “So what we did was we continued our services but elsewhere, while using security guards.”

READ MORE: Old Royal Victoria Hospital will be converted into a resource for Montreal’s homeless population

While shelters across the island continue to face challenges, there’s now concern about the impacts of yet another lockdown.

“How new measures will affect the homeless population is a real question and certainly a curfew for the homeless — where are they going to go? That’s the real question,” said Chapman.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: COVID-19 infection rate climbs among Montreal’s homeless'
Coronavirus: COVID-19 infection rate climbs among Montreal’s homeless

In a statement to Global News, Montreal Public Health authorities said they are currently investigating the outbreaks within the homeless population.

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According to them, in the month of December, more than 100 homeless clients and workers tested positive for COVID-19.

READ MORE: Montreal to open homeless shelter with supervised alcohol consumption in 2021

“Staff working with the homeless community are on the priority list for a vaccine, with the rollout beginning in the coming days and weeks… and more testing will be done to get a clearer picture of the positivity rate.”

“We are community organizations that can do only so much,” said James Hughes, CEO and president of the Old Brewery Mission. “We absolutely need the ongoing and increased assistance of the public health system to be able to deal with this public health issue.”

Public health confirmed the expansion of the red zone at the Old Royal Victoria hospital for the homeless will be ready by the end of the week.

Shelters said while that’s a good thing, other resources need to be made available as they continue to struggle to provide services.


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