COVID-19 outbreak in homeless community has pushed services to the brink: advocates

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A COVID-19 outbreak among homeless people in Montreal has grown so severe that services are either temporarily closed or at capacity, according to advocates.

Native Women's Shelter executive director Nakuset, who also leads the Resilience Montreal organization, said that without imminent government help, the city's shelters will be forced to close.

“If the army was deployed to go to nursing homes, they can be deployed to work with the homeless,” she said. “Unless they just don't care.”

Advocates estimated that at least a dozen COVID-positive homeless people are on the street with nowhere to isolate. Those people sometimes visit day shelters and other services throughout the city, which could lead to the outbreak worsening.

“If there was enough housing, enough shelter, enough roofs, more of the street community would be isolated by choice,” said Allison Reid of Settler-Reseau Montreal.

Reid added that another problem is finding services for clients with severe addiction and mental health issues.

“The Canadian Red Cross can also step in to the support the situation because I don't foresee this slowing down,” she said.

Montreal Public Health could not be reached for comment.

Reid said discussions are underway to open a special area at the old Royal Victoria Hospital site for Indigenous homeless people who test positive for the virus, but that won't be available until next week.

Earlier this week, it was announced that a second downtown hotel would be repurposed into a homeless shelter for those who are COVID-negative.

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