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.
An outbreak of COVID-19 has hit Montreal’s homeless community hard.
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.”
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.
In a statement to Global News, Montreal Public Health authorities said they are currently investigating the outbreaks within the homeless population.
According to them, in the month of December, more than 100 homeless clients and workers tested positive for COVID-19.
“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.