Provincial government, Municipality looking to protect vulnerable population
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
The Municipality of Sioux Lookout said a Sioux Lookout COVID-19 Vulnerable Persons Committee has been assembled, comprising of various organizations and agencies, to help protect the local vulnerable population.
The Municipality of Sioux Lookout shared, “A ‘Sioux Lookout COVID-19 Vulnerable Persons Committee’ has been convened, which includes representation from a number of organizations and agencies, including, but not limited to, the Northwestern Health Unit, the Municipality, the OPP, the Out of the Cold Shelter, the Kenora District Services Board (KDSB), health care agencies and others, to address concerns related to protecting our vulnerable population. Strategies and options are being pursued to ensure this high-risk segment of our population receives the supports required to weather this public health crisis.”
“We have been meeting with the municipality and other agencies in town that deal with marginalized populations, the (Northwestern) Health Unit, KDSB, First Step Women’s Shelter, the Friendship Centre, and us. We’ve been meeting for two weeks now looking at potential barriers, concerns,” said Susan Barclay, Executive Director of the Out of the Cold Shelter.
In a news release on his website on April 3, Kenora Rainy-River MPP Greg Rickford announced both the Kenora and Rainy River District Services Boards have received funding from the provincial government to support vulnerable persons throughout the region during this period.
“The Ontario government is providing over $2 million dollars in additional support for local social service boards in Kenora-Rainy River to help protect the health and safety of the province’s most vulnerable people in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. This funding can be used by municipalities and social service providers such as homeless shelters, food banks, emergency services, charities and non-profits to support delivery of critical services, hire additional staff, acquire more personal protective equipment, and find ways to promote social distancing and self-isolation to keep people safe and healthy. Kenora District Services Board and Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board will determine how this funding is distributed locally to provide people in the community with the support they need,” the release states.
“Additional funding for social services is critical right now to protect vulnerable populations and the greater community against the spread of COVID-19,” said MPP Greg Rickford. “Our government has taken swift action to ensure this funding goes directly to our community service boards who are working tirelessly to keep people safe during this unprecedented time.”
Barclay said the Out of the Cold Shelter has remained open, but the lack of personal protective equipment has been a major concern. She said the Government of Ontario’s prohibition of social gatherings of five or more people doesn’t affect the shelter.
“One of the big concerns we have is the lack of personal protective equipment and space to isolate persons should they become symptomatic… We’re moving along well looking at options. The Shelter remains open. It is an essential service. We have encouraged people to go to their home communities if at all possible, and we are now down to five or six people that are using the emergency shelter,” said Barclay.
“As far as gathering, that’s not a gathering. It’s a place where they’re staying, so it doesn’t affect us in any way… The men and women that we see regularly are being monitored for screening when they’re coming in each time. That will become a little bit more rigorous,” she said.
Barclay shared the food bank also remains open with social distancing measures in effect.
“The food bank is open. The only difference is we’re asking people to just come to the door and we’ll get their hamper together for them. Our community lunch is going to be restricted to the people who use the emergency shelter. Other persons who live in Sioux Lookout and are seeking a meal will be offered take-out,” she explained.
On April 3 the Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre (NGFC) announced they’ve made their hamper program accessible for the entire community.
“The Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre is committed to supporting all community members of Sioux Lookout during these unfamiliar times. We are offering emergency food hampers and supplies to individuals and families that need support,” the NGFC shared on Facebook.
To request an emergency hamper, the NGFC recommends calling and leaving a message at 738-4671 or emailing [email protected]