More Shelter Space for Homeless

This petition made change with 371 supporters!

As the days go by, more people are being tested positive of Covid-19 in Alberta. As of this writing, 23 new cases are confirmed which makes the provincial total ninety-seven. Seventy of which are in Calgary (Alberta Health Services, 2020). Community transmissions are also happening as 7 cases over the weekend were confirmed to have originated in a single gathering in the Calgary health zone (CTVNews, 2020). Prevention plans have been put in place to contain the outbreak – telecommuting; schools continuing online; daycare centres, libraries, and recreation centres were closed down; online self-assessment for symptoms and a dedicated hotline (811) are available to the public for advice and information. Self-quarantine, self-isolation, and social distancing are recommended in addition to proper hand washing. These are all well and good but our question is, how about our homeless population?

The city's homeless serving agencies are doing their best in taking steps to prevent the risk of catching the virus for their workers and clients. The Drop-in Centre canceled all volunteer opportunities and stopped accepting donations at the shelter, asking donors to drop their donations at their northeast donation centre instead. At both Alpha House, And the Drop Inn Centre, the staff has started checking body temperatures at the door and looking for flu-like symptoms to help people receiving their services get tested for COVID-19 if needed. Their homeless clients are also being asked to sanitize their hands as they enter the shelter. More distance between sleeping spaces are also being implemented (Calgary Herald, 2020).

However, the circumstances that come with homelessness make these people more susceptible to catching the virus (Crowe, 2020):

- Crowded shelters and communal facilities
- Frequently forced migration for survival (seeking shelter and food)
- Reduced access to health care
- Aging population
- Compromised immunity and chronic diseases

In an interview with Kathy Christiansen, executive director of Alpha House Calgary, she said that the biggest barrier for our homeless population is the "lack of housing and having a safe place to stay and isolate." According to her, the biggest challenge that needs to be figured out is how to support people who are homeless who will test positive in a "safe and caring way”. She added that there might eventually be a need to provide a separate quarantine space for people with nowhere to go (Calgary Herald, 2020).

 In another interview Chaz Smith, CEO of BeTheChangeYYC Street Outreach, said  "This is a dense population with high risk individuals the  DI can have about 1000 individuals within it's few floors they live in communal living, sleeping and eating all in the same room. You can imagine if one of those individuals were to get sick how it has the potential to spread.(770CHQR, 2020)

This scenario is very likely if the pandemic will continue to spread. Planning and preparation for this scenario should be performed as early as now, the city should be ready to respond to such an outbreak.

Monique Auffrey, CEO of Calgary’s Discovery House, in connection to the shortage of shelter spaces to accommodate people fleeing family violence, said in an interview that the problem is not about building new shelters, but opening up what is there to be accessed. She mentioned empty buildings in the downtown, empty motel and hotel rooms due to the effects of COVID-19 on tourism. She said that during times like these, people just need to be creative.

We are requesting more shelter spaces be opened for people experiencing homelessness during this time of crisis. Adding more shelters will decongest the current homeless-serving agencies and enable shelter users to practice social distancing and self-isolation. We need to ensure that the marginalized members of society are also being protected against the spread of the disease and are cared for. Keeping them safe from catching the disease by providing a place to stay indoors and handing out necessities to eliminate the need to roam, will help keep everyone in the community safe. It will also prevent the healthcare system from taking on more cases given its already burdened capacity. We hope that the city council and our provincial government will look at the condition of these people seriously and start acting proactively before its too late.


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Chaz Smith needs your help with “Government of Alberta: More Shelter Space for Homeless”. Join Chaz and 370 supporters today.