Partnering agencies working to provide water, shelter to vulnerable populations during extreme temperatures
Tim Brody - Editor
With temperatures expected to be 25 degrees Celsius or warmer each day this week, the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) and partner agencies in Sioux Lookout are doing what they can to assist the community’s vulnerable populations through the heat wave.
Gillian Lunny, RN, MN, NWHU Manager, Sexual Health and Harm Reduction shared, “The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) has some plans in place related to extreme temperatures for warming and cooling centres. It’s in the winter too, we are faced with people being outside too much and we have to have placed for them to warm up. Some of those plans have been changed a little bit. COVID has made everything more difficult. A lot of our agencies have limited services or different hours. We used to be able to have big things of water that people could come in and fill up their jug. There’s certain things that we’ve had to change due to COVID and it’ unfortunate.”
She added, “We do have through the health unit that when there is an advisory of extreme temperature, when we get that, we do send out notifications to partners and we do supply water.”
Lunny said NWHU staff will provide water to partner agencies to distribute to vulnerable populations, adding that bottled water is available for those populations at health unit offices.
“We work with partners, so if people don’t have a budget for water themselves, we will pick some up and deliver cases of water for them to hand out,” she said.
She also said water and sunscreen are being handed out through the Mobile Outreach program in Sioux Lookout.
“We have a really great imitative that we got funding for through Health Canada. Northwestern Heath Unit applied for it, but it was to help support vulnerable populations and to continue with a program that the OPP was running where they had a crisis nurse on staff. We put in an application and we built on that, so we’ve been able to hire crisis workers who are working with Canadian Mental Health Association and the OPP to respond to crisis calls, very often related to mental health. The other part of the Health Canada funding was to pay for a public health nurse and two mental health and addictions workers through Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority, that are doing a little more of that proactive, preventive stuff, so not responding to crises, but engaging with the vulnerable populations. Mobile is always what works best. So they’re traveling around the community, they’re engaging with partners and engaging with the vulnerable populations,” Lunny explained.
Susan Barclay, Out of the Cold Shelter Executive Director shared, “The street outreach team, the OPP and the Northwestern heath unit have been giving water to folks. We give out water as people go out on hot days. We are also open for people to come in any time. Several agencies are directly involved in trying to reopen an extreme weather drop in. However, there is no appropriate space to rent in the downtown area.”
Nishnawbe Gamik Friendship Centre Executive Director Jennifer Thomas added, “Some of the partnership agencies are working with KDSB (Kenora District Services Board) to offer the drop in centre as we have done before. The unfortunate issue is space to deliver these supports; we continue the search for spaces.”