Shelter services now at Rec Centre to protect, serve vulnerable population during COVID-19 pandemic
Tim Brody - Editor
Emergency shelter services in Sioux Lookout have been moved to the Recreation Centre (effective April 17) to accommodate physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic and allow the Out of the Cold Shelter to be available for isolation purposes.
“As part of the Vulnerable Persons Committee (of which the Municipality of Sioux Lookout and the Out of the Cold Shelter are members), there was a concern about our vulnerable population and how we would deal with the ability to isolate individuals should the need arise. Since all recreation facilities had to be closed under Provincial orders, the Recreation Centre was offered as a possible location for the Shelter as it has the types of spaces that would facilitate an easy transition for the Shelter operations,” shared Municipal Chief Administrative Officer Michelle Larose.
“The Municipality is acting in a supportive role for the various agencies during this unprecedented time and will continue to respond as, and where needed,” she added.
“We were able to work with most of the folks who use our services on a fairly frequent basis to get them to a safe place, whether it’s their home community or whether they went to someplace else where they have family or friends or relatives they could stay with. We did this almost a month ago now,” explained Susan Barclay, Out of the Cold Shelter executive director.
“That left us with between six and 10 people who really didn’t have a safe place to go to. We’ve been providing service for that six to 10 people,” Barclay said, adding, “The people that we’re trying to provide service to basically will be those we know have no other options at the moment. That six to 10 people could not be accommodated and leave room for anyone else in the 25 Fair Street space, even though we can get 26 in there under normal circumstances, to allow for proper distancing, we’re down to in the six range.”
Commenting on the provision of services at Rec Centre, Barclay commented, “It will be open all day long (24 hours) for anybody who needs to come in, but it is very restricted. It is not a place where folks can come and gather. The only people we’re going to provide services to are those who are identified with no home to go to.”
“We are doing full screening of people as they come in, every time they come in the building, checking for symptoms or if anything has changed since the last time we saw them. They will be able to stay here all day long should they want to,” Barclay added.
“We’re only seeing two or three people a night in the emergency shelter even though there is the potential for up to 10 right now,” Barclay said.
“The spaces being used consist of the lobby area with access to television and Wi-Fi, the canteen for the provision of food preparation, the gymnasium for sleeping area creating a space that would facilitate social distancing, the change rooms with bathroom and showers for use by the clients. Minor renovations were done by the Recreation Department and Facilities staff to ensure the security and safety of the clients using the shelter,” Larose informed.
“We will be providing lunch for those who are using the emergency shelter. It won’t be a community lunch like we usually do. If there is a food security issue then we’ll make sure there is some kind of alternative arrangement for them, but we’re limiting the people coming and going as best as we can,” Barclay said.
“Similar temporary measures are being undertaken in Red Lake and Kenora. We are pleased to be able to work with Kenora District Services Board, Out of the Cold Shelter, and other agencies to implement this measure to protect people in our Municipality. These are people who have very limited options for safe housing. Throughout this public health crisis we have been participating with a group of agencies led by the Northwestern Health Unit to address the needs of vulnerable people in Sioux Lookout. The inter-agency cooperation has been remarkable and we are grateful to all,” Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance shared.
Community food bank services will continue to be provided at 25 Fair Street from Tuesday to Saturday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“People will come to the door and identify themselves and we’ll meet them at the back door with their (food) hampers,” Barclay said. People can call the food bank at 737-7499 to register and arrange for a food hamper.
Monetary and food donations for the food bank can be dropped off at 25 Fair Street.
Part of the 25 Fair Street Out of the Cold Shelter building will available if a vulnerable person requires isolation.
A needle exchange program is also being run by the Out of the Cold Shelter at this time, “Because there is a lack of sites available at the moment with agencies being closed down, we took on the needle exchange program at the 25 Fair location. It will only be from 12 noon to 5 pm. Tuesday to Saturday,” Barclay concluded.