COVID-19 clusters identified at supportive housing facilities in Victoria

We knew COVID-19 had started to spread among unhoused people in Victoria, but we didn't know exactly how many people were affected until now.

Internal documents from Island Health show 225 cases of COVID-19 were identified in supportive housing facilities between Sept. 1 to Sept. 22.

The documents were leaked to the Capital Daily, which shared them with CTV News.

"Our stance on privacy has always been (that) we respect the privacy of the people we serve," said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health Chief Medical Health Officer.

That's why Island Health says it did not make the data public.

The documents show case counts across 22 supportive housing facilities in the Victoria area.

As of Tuesday, 148 cases were active, including cases among 20 people without a fixed address.

Despite these numbers, Island Health has not declared any COVID-19 outbreaks at a housing facility, only clusters.

"We don't declare (an outbreak) in an apartment building where there's a family that has COVID, and this is very similar," said Dr. Dee Hoyano, Greater Victoria Medical Health Officer.

That's what Hoyano says is the difference between declaring an outbreak at a licenced care home and a supportive housing facility.

Some of the Cool Aid Society's homes are listed as cluster locations.

"We were expecting it a lot sooner and thought maybe it had passed us by," said Kathy Stinson, CEO of the Cool Aid Society.

The head of the society says staff are well aware of what's happening on the ground and how to handle it.

"We need to act as if it's in our buildings, whether we have an active case or not," said Stinson.

Island Health says there's a major push from front-line workers to get people vaccinated.

"Literally every day of the week they are knocking on doors offering vaccine," said Hoyano.

But it's an effort that Island Health says is difficult to undertake in a community that may have lost trust in the system.