Safety precautions the main focus at Saskatoon's Lighthouse
- NC Raine | March 24, 2020
Shelters in Saskatoon are doing as much as they can to ensure vulnerable populations in the city stay healthy and informed during the COVID-19 state of emergency.
Situations like the current COVID-19 state of emergency affects individuals experiencing homelessness four-to-five times greater than non-homeless individuals, said Anna Pacik, fundraising and communications manager at The Lighthouse Supported Living.
As such, the Lighthouse and Salvation Army have recommended the Ministry of Social Services provide block funding for essential services caring for people experiencing homelessness, poverty, and addictions.
“The current model of funding not only creates long term financial insecurity but currently also exacerbates the risk of spreading the virus to this very vulnerable population,” Pacik said in a statement sent to Eagle Feather News.
Pacik said the Lighthouse is currently experiencing a significant increase in expenses for staffing, food, and infection control supply costs due to COVID-19 preparedness. Shelter stays have increased and will continue to increase, she says.
Visitors are indefinitely disallowed in The Lighthouse, and the volunteer program has been shut down. They will also no longer be providing sit down meals, but are providing bagged meals to be handed out at the kitchen door.
The Saskatoon's Salvation Army has likewise made adjustments to their daily operations. They have moved to a take-out meal only for their meal program, and have also reconfigured their dormitory to ensure beds are a minimum of six-feet apart. With construction in the building recently completed, they were able to reconfigure the space without losing any beds.
“We continue to operate in modified ways the same sort of services we've always offered,” Mike Hoeft, Area Commander for the Salvation Army in Saskatchewan said in an interview.
“The challenge for us is going to be trying to get the population we generally serve to understand and comply with things like proper hand-hygiene and social distancing. It's not as though the other issues people deal with have gone away because of this. So we're continuing to serve them in those ways.”
Additional challenges, said Hoeft, are keeping sanitary areas like the shared washrooms and the communal dining area, and the increased costs of purchasing more food, and additional linens, pillows, and beds.
Angela McKay, the patron at the Lighthouse, said her concerns about the virus are not as extreme as narratives portrayed by the media.
“I think everyone (at the Lighthouse) is sort of in the same mind frame as me. I don't think they're as worked up as the media wants them to be,” said McKay. “As long as people are practicing good hygiene and taking precautionary measures, we should be okay.”
McKay said the Lighthouse has been diligent at ensuring everything is sanitary, she said, while adding that her real concern is the vulnerable populations who access these services.
“It's the poor people who are going to suffer. They're the ones at the greatest risk.”
The Government of Saskatchewan Chief Medical Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab spoke on Thursday about high-density institutions, such as correctional facilities, and the risk to their inhabitants.
“All institutions need to have precautions in place, which includes those who work in that setting or someone who visits – you are far more likely to bring COVID-19 into that institution,” said Shahab. “It's very challenging if there's crowding in a setting where individuals may not have access to their own (area), but these discussions need to be happening so we prevent a case or a secondary case.”