New Location to Help Protect Homeless Population from Surge in COVID-19 Cases: Stefanson
Manitoba’s Alternative Isolation Accommodation (AIA) program is expanding to better protect Manitobans who need space to safely isolate due to COVID-19, including the addition of a 138-room site to primarily serve Winnipeg’s shelter population, Families Minister Heather Stefanson announced today.
“A surge in cases within our homeless shelters is putting a strain on the number of beds in the system, as well as on staff needed to support this critical work,” said Stefanson. “Our government is committed to protecting Manitobans from the pandemic. We are taking action to address these challenges by investing in new spaces for vulnerable people who have COVID-19 or need to self-isolate, responding to an increasing demand among our homeless population.”
The new 138-room AIA site will open in stages beginning this weekend, adding to spaces already open in Winnipeg to meet the unique needs of individuals who have, or are suspected of having, COVID-19. In addition to a safe space to isolate, participants in the AIA program receive daily health and wellness checks. Online consultations with primary-care providers and specialists, as well as occasional on-site visits from paramedics, are also available as needed. The new isolation site is not being identified in order to protect the privacy of those staying there.
“We know the shelter population is particularly vulnerable to the contracting and spread of COVID-19,” said Sharon Kuropatwa, director of housing, supports and service integration, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. “These isolation spaces provide individuals with a safe space to isolate while they await test results or to recover if they have tested positive, with enhanced access to clinical and social supports if they need them.”
The new location brings the number of AIA sites in Winnipeg to five including one managed by the First Nations Inuit Health Branch and operated by the Canadian Red Cross. Site managers across the city work together to manage capacity and to ensure space is always available for those who need it including those in the shelter population. Community partners, including End Homelessness Winnipeg and Main Street Project, work closely with AIA officials and provide support. Currently, up to 16 people per day from Winnipeg’s shelter population are referred to AIA sites.
“Main Street Project is well-equipped to take on this expanded role to address the increase in COVID-19 cases,” said Bobbette Shoffner, interim executive director, Main Street Project. “In the spring when the pandemic was initially approaching our community, Main Street Project responded quickly to offer this vital service. We will continue to work together with our partners and our community to expand capacity, and ensure we have adequate space for people who have COVID-19 or must isolate safely.”
In addition to serving the shelter population, AIA sites provide space for health-care workers and for other Manitobans who do not have access to private bedrooms at their homes, as well as for those who live with someone at greater risk of COVID-19.
There are now 14 AIA sites across the province, including nine locations throughout northern Manitoba, with plans to open new hotel locations as soon as December in Brandon.
Stefanson noted the province is also taking steps to ensure appropriate staffing at these shelters. Since early November, provincial staff have provided staffing support to Oscar’s Place, a homeless shelter in The Pas, in response to an outbreak of COVID-19. As a further interim measure, the province recently issued a call for civil servants and community partners to help staff homeless shelters including the new isolation facility in Winnipeg. One of the agencies that will step forward to help staff isolation sites is the Downtown Community Safety Partnership, which continues to work with Winnipeg community partners to provide support and services to vulnerable and at-risk populations.
The Manitoba government has invested $3.5 million in expanded shelter capacity throughout the pandemic to help protect this vulnerable population including:
• more than $550,000 for Main Street Project to support over 100 new overnight shelter beds and new daytime programming for vulnerable Winnipeggers,
• $720,000 to support the Salvation Army,
• $225,000 for Siloam Mission to operate 50 new shelter beds,
• more than $115,000 for Resource Assistance for Youth to operate 20 housing units for at-risk youth, and
• $132,000 for Samaritan House in Brandon.
Additionally, the province has provided more than 58,000 individual items of personal protective equipment, such as masks, to homeless shelters.
The Manitoba government is taking strong action to protect Manitobans and ensure timely access to care. For more information on COVID-19 in Manitoba, visit www.manitoba.ca/COVID19.
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For more information:
- Public information, contact Manitoba Government Inquiry: 1-866-626-4862 or 204-945-3744.
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