North Bay’s low-barrier shelter to reopen early August

The low-barrier homeless shelter on Chippewa Street in North Bay is reopening at the beginning of August.

The shelter closed at the beginning of summer due to health and safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mark King, District of Nipissing Social Services Administration Board chair, confirmed the city's shelter will be open again Aug. 1.

"It was the best possible method that we could use at that time,” said King.

He said people accessing services at the shelters were temporarily put in motels where they had their own private room due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the homeless community.

"In the past what happened at the low-barrier shelter when it was open and dealing with the COVID outbreak through the whole system, paramedics did actually attend and did immunize people," said King.

The Crisis Centre North Bay oversees operations at the low-barrier shelter. CTV News reached out to the crisis centre, however, our calls were not returned.

"The crisis centre is ready to move into the low-barrier shelter," said King.

The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit never declared a COVID-19 outbreak in the homeless population due to a perceived spike in stigma. However, those who oversaw a tent city were told by the health unit to keep the encampment open due to several COVID-19 cases spreading in the homeless population.

"We did our best to contain the outbreak but we had to let them out every so often so they could get their methadone and stuff like that," said Terri-Lynn Stevens, HOPE’s outreach manager who helped oversee the tent city operations.

Stevens said she hopes reopening the shelter will help resolve some issues for homeless people.

"It put a lot of stress on them,” she said, referring to when it had to close. “They denied people from going into the low-barrier for ridiculous reasons and unfortunately it did create quite an issue that we had to resolve."

King said he hopes health unit staff and paramedics will be on-site to vaccinate more homeless people at the shelter in hopes of avoiding any future outbreaks.