Saskatoon’s homeless population struggles for safe housing during COVID-19 pandemic
After a COVID-19 outbreak caused the Lighthouse to close its doors, those who are homeless are finding things even more difficult.
“There was a time early on in the COVID crisis where the ad was ‘stay home, stay safe’ but if you have no home, how do you stay safe?,” said Judy Regamey, executive director of the Salvation Army’s Crossroads shelter.
Regamey says the Crossroads shelter has seen an influx in people needing their support since the Lighthouse shut down causing their shelter to be full every night.
“Until Lighthouse can get back to whatever is normal now, then we are going to see these increases,” she said.
However, the increase also comes from the change in weather this time of year.
“Coming up on winter our numbers always get higher, that’s something we prepare for anyway,” said Regamey.
The beds at the shelter are full every night and the Salvation Army has been working with social services to find other places for their clients to stay.
Regamey says the Crossroads shelter has had to adapt their bed situations to properly social distance. The shelter before the pandemic had two dorms that housed 15 people each. Since the pandemic, those dorms have had to change and the shelter is trying to come up with ways to make the beds more private and isolated.
Other organizations such as the Saskatoon Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP) are focusing on finding permeant housing for those in a vulnerable state.
“In our COVID reality, (permanent housing) is also a place where you can self-isolate, you can self-monitor, you can wash your hands, you can do all the things to keep yourself safe in our current environment,” said executive director Lyn Brown.
The Ministry of Social Services says if a person is required to self-isolate due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or symptoms, but does not have the means to isolate safely, they will be transitioned to safe accommodations.
However, Brown says more needs to be done for the homeless population who may be asymptomatic or are waiting for test results.
“What happens then, is you may have individuals in the homeless community who would go to a shelter but their COVID results are uncertain. So, they’re providing an uncertainty that could cause something like an outbreak,” said Brown.
The Salvation Army says it’s trying to be realistic and knows that there’s a high chance it will see a positive case in its facility. But the organization says it’s prepared should one of its clients become infected.