YK shelter introduces Covid-19 measures, looks for extra space
Yellowknife’s downtown day shelter and sobering centre held a meeting for its users on Monday as staff introduced “access screening.”
The NWT Disabilities Council, which runs the shelter, said it needed to find extra space to provide homeless people with somewhere to self-isolate if required in the weeks to come.
However, the council said it had spent time planning and said in a statement the shelter would remain “able to meet the needs of both staff and service users in the most effective way possible.”
“We are aware that homelessness services are especially at risk,” said the NWT Disabilities Council (NWTDC) in a statement released on Monday afternoon.
“In response, the NWTDC has been making preparations prior to the formal declaration of pandemic.
“The response is fluid and has been in collaboration with Public Health and the NWT Health and Social Services Authority, Advanced Medical Solutions, and other departments as required.”
On Monday, the council said it had held a meeting with people who use the shelter and sobering centre.
That meeting included a presentation on the virus and how it is transmitted; steps taken by the shelter operator to help people; and how people without homes could protect themselves.
The council said this included advice on handwashing, social distancing, and “providing realistic and accessible alternatives to sharing bottles, drug paraphernalia, and cigarettes.”
Meanwhile, the council said staff were being screened and access to the building, on Yellowknife’s 50 Street, was restricted to only homeless people and “required professionals” as a protective measure.
The statement said “access screening” had been implemented but did not elaborate on what this involved. The council said the screening would “help to quickly identify and address any person presenting as symptomatic.”
However, what to then do with homeless people who may have Covid-19 symptoms is presenting a problem.
The NWT Disabilities Council admitted it does not currently have space to keep people who are symptom-free adequately separated from those who may need to self-isolate.
The council said it was working on finding three appropriate spaces:
- for people who are Covid-free “to come together [and] interact, be safe and have access to necessities while being able to maintain social distancing;”
- for people “who have been identified and tested” to self-isolate, as people who are homeless don’t have a space of their own for self-isolation; and
- space for people who have tested positive for the coronavirus “to be supported if hospitalization is not required.”
The council said “these sites are currently being identified and secured through the GNWT.”
The day shelter and sobering centre themselves are not currently expected to move to different premises.