Every year, front-line workers in Saskatchewan tackle homelessness, overdoses and the occasional polar vortex. Throw a global pandemic into the mix, and it all becomes a little too much.
Mandolyn Gales, a housing support worker at Prairie Harm Reduction (PHR), is feeling fatigued.
“All of us are doing the best that we possibly can to take care of ourselves and be able to show up every day and still support our folks,” Gales told Global News.
She constantly worries about her clients getting sick, overdosing or freezing to death.
“Those are stresses that we’re having to take home that you can’t just shut off,” she said. “This is a very, very hard time to be a front-line worker.”
Saskatoon organizations switched gears quickly last March, turning their attention to the pandemic to help disadvantaged communities get through it.
Gales shifted focus from finding people permanent homes to connecting clients to isolation hotels or emergency shelters. Front-line staff have been working long hours, but Gales said they’re willing to take on additional stress to support the community.
“It’s hard to just see our folks struggling,” she said. “It is a lot of pressure to keep (coronavirus) restrictions in place while also trying to be super compassionate.”
Since the start of the pandemic, community organizations have worked together and shared resources to strengthen social safety nets.
Central Urban Métis Federation Inc. (CUMFI) president Shirley Isbister said the collective emergency response has been eye-opening.
“When we work together, it makes it much easier on every organization,” Isbister said.
CUMFI staff have taken on new tasks, from filling hand sanitizer bottles to preparing meals for community members.
Despite any added pressure, Isibister said none of her staff has taken stress leave, and they are happy to take on new tasks.
“I don’t know if we’re so much into burnout,” she said. “It seems, almost, like it’s become our norm of how we work.”