Winnipeg finding options to help homeless population through Covid-19

Across the country and in almost every community, people are practicing social distancing to try and reduce the spread of Covid-19 that has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people across Canada.

But one of the most vulnerable groups of people, who do not have proper sanitation or even a home are not.

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Shared Health in Manitoba, says the province has isolation centres dedicated to those experiencing homelessness and says the shelters are open and in use.

“Thirteen people have stayed at the isolation centre for those experiencing homelessness since opening last Thursday night [April 9th]. So currently 11 people are staying there as of Tuesday evening. We expect at the shelter that there will be 39 rooms that will be open and in use by the end of this week.”

The Manitoba government is spending about $1.2 million to deal with the pandemic for the homeless and adding 140 new shelter beds to support people affected by homelessness and will help shelters in a number of areas including repurposing a vacant Manitoba Housing building, adding beds provided by the Salvation Army, and expanding Siloam Mission’s capacity.

The Minister of Families Heather Stefanson also commented on plans the government has to help transient people in Winnipeg.

“When it comes to social distancing, we encourage all shelters to practise the guidelines and directives established by the chief provincial public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, and we will continue to work with shelters to ensure that they can do their part to stop the spread of Covid-19 in our communities.”

Shared Health also has a dedicated hotel set up for individuals that have tested positive for Covid-19 and need shelter to self isolate.

Last week, the Manitoba government and city of Winnipeg announced they will be issuing fines to those who not practise safe social distancing. Fines will carry a maximum of $486 for an individual and $2,542 for businesses not following protocol.

“Of course we’re concerned with any gatherings where people seem to either not be aware of or are ignoring sort of some of the protocols,” stated Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth at a press conference last week.

Although no fines have yet been issued, there have been verbal warnings given out by Winnipeg’s by-law officers and community service ambassadors.