Posted on Apr 27, 2020
MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE TO PROTECT HOMELESS, SHELTER EMPLOYEES FROM COVID-19
CALGARY - Not enough is being done to protect people experiencing homelessness, particularly in Calgary where an outbreak in a shelter continues to put clients and staff at risk, says the Alberta NDP Official Opposition.
News today confirmed four cases of COVID-19 among those experiencing homelessness in Calgary, three of which were clients of the Calgary Drop-In Centre. The Opposition raised concerns about an outbreak in shelters, such as the Drop-In Centre, weeks ago and also questioned whether the congregated living setup at the Telus Convention Centre in Calgary was really the best plan.
“I raised this issue weeks ago and it was completely brushed off by Minister Sawney,” said MLA Marie Renaud, NDP Opposition Critic for Community and Social Services. “People who live rough or who experience homelessness are at higher risk of catching COVID-19 and they have no ability to self-isolate, the UCP should have made plans much sooner to protect them and provide adequate housing during this pandemic.”
Other Canadian cities have worked to secure hotel rooms for their entire homeless population, but the UCP maintained such arrangements would only be made in cases of infection. As well, some shelters across the province have only provided space for one metre of separation between residents when sleeping, rather than the two-metre recommended generally by the Chief Medical Officer.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi also previously raised concerns about the shelter pandemic plan specific to his city.
The Official Opposition also reiterated a call for proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to be provided to all shelter employees and for the full cost of that equipment to be covered by the provincial government, not the organizations helping those in need.
“These frontline heroes are putting their lives on the line to care for vulnerable Albertans,” Renaud said. “The least we can do is provide them with equipment that could literally be the difference between life and death. One week ago, my colleague, Health Critic David Shepherd, called for a full list of organizations eligible for PPE shipments from the province. To date, the Government hasn’t said a word in response to his call. Their silence is deafening.”