The City of Quesnel has been in contact with Seasons House and B.C. Housing in order to understand how to best support the homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Quesnel Cariboo Observer file photo)

COVID-19: Quesnel considers its most vulnerable

City in contact with the shelter and B.C. Housing to ensure well-being of homeless during pandemic

The City of Quesnel is taking steps to ensure the safety and well-being of its homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a statement from the City of Quesnel, the municipality has been asked to improve washroom access, increase sanitation stations and to consider establishing a homeless camp.

The release states the City has been in communication with the Seasons House Shelter, as well as B.C. Housing, and has requested that they be updated as to the ongoing needs throughout this difficult time.

“The City has absolutely been in contact with us and they are working to try and address those issues, and I think that we will probably see more in the days to come — I think that they are concerned about the homeless population and getting their needs met,” said Seasons House Shelter executive director Melanie MacDonald.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Seasons House has taken actions to ensure the safety of its guests, staff and community members. These actions include halting all daytime drop-in services for individuals not staying at the shelter and doing enhanced cleaning throughout the shelter using approved cleaning supplies that have rated effective against coronavirus, with extra focus put on high-touch points, such as light switches, door handles and counter tops in high-traffic areas.

“We have fully implemented our own pandemic plan in here,” said MacDonald. “We have a very strict hourly sanitization schedule here, all of our food is going out on disposable plates and cups and cutlery, nothing is self-serve anymore, we’ve got social distancing tape throughout the shelter to show people appropriate social distancing, staff are wearing masks, and we have masks and gloves available to clients if they want.”

In a release regarding homelessness service providers, B.C. Housing acknowledged the elevated risks for those in the homeless community should they be exposed to the virus.

“We recognize that our homelessness and transitional housing service providers serve some of the most vulnerable people in our communities,” states the release. “These communities have higher rates of health concerns and may be at greater risk if exposed to the virus.”

The B.C. Housing COVID-19 release offers some guidelines for supportive housing operators, including basic testing criteria for COVID-19 and practical steps to prepare for and prevent the spread of the virus, along with enhanced cleaning protocols and how to support those who may have COVID-19.

“B.C. Housing has been absolutely exceptional working with housing and shelter providers in trying to meet their needs,” said MacDonald. “They are sending us supplies and they’re providing us recommendations in as many supports as they possibly can. In other communities, B.C. Housing has set aside blocks of rooms in hotels so that we can create space for people, and those are conversations we are having here, around what other space could be utilized to deal with some of our capacity issues here at the shelter.”

The City of Quesnel has been advised there are some individuals in the community who are uncomfortable in a group setting and therefore have not accessed emergency shelter services, and in some cases, individuals have been denied access to services due to unmanageable behaviours.

According to the City of Quesnel’s release, the City has been asked to allow these individuals to remain in place as much as possible, which the City has taken under advisement and will takes steps to not increase stress on the individuals, as is their normal practice, but will continue to ensure the safety of community spaces for all residents of Quesnel.

“I was encouraged to hear that for people living outdoors, they wouldn’t just automatically be moving those people along,” said MacDonald. “We know that for people who are homeless and living outdoors, the best thing, and the recommendations right now, are to leave people where they are at so that health care and other professionals know where to find them and they can get necessary supplies to them and we can monitor and provide them supports.”

With regards to setting up a homeless camp for those not able to access the shelter during the pandemic, the release from the City states that it has had no communication that there is presently a population that would be served by a camp.

“Unfortunately, there have been situations during this crisis where we have had to take action due to partying, fires and the accumulation of significant amounts of flammable materials,” according to the City. “We will continue to ensure safety and order in our public spaces.”

In response to requests to improve the safety of public washroom access, the City has increased its maintenance and sanitation of the public washrooms in the downtown Spirit Centre, Sugar Loaf Dog Park and along the Riverfront Trail near the women’s memorial.

The City’s release states that due to the pandemic, they are struggling to secure sanitation supplies and due to vandalism, the Sugar Loaf and Riverfront Trail public washrooms do not currently contain sanitation stations. The City has begun discussions as to where new sanitation stations will be placed, should they be able to secure the additional units.

The City will continue to monitor the ongoing needs of the homeless population and remain in contact with organizations providing care for those who are most vulnerable in order to supply additional support when and where it is needed, according to the City’s release.

“The homeless population is one of many populations the City is attempting to support at this time,” it states. “We are relying on the organizations that are charged and resourced to support these individuals to ramp up their resources and clearly identify and communicate where they are not meeting needs. We will continue to work with those agencies and seek the additional supports our community needs.”

READ MORE: UPDATE: City of Quesnel activates Level 1 Emergency Operations Centre in response to COVID-19



editor@quesnelobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Quesnel Farmers’ Market welcomes back non-food vendors

Decision comes as the Province moves forward with phase two of the B.C. Restart Plan

Barkerville set to re-open in phases

Accomodations, shops, restaraunts to open June 18, exhibits and public programming July 3

P.G.’s Barb Ward-Burkitt named new chair of Minister’s Advisory Council on Indigenous Women

A survivor of domestic abuse herself, Ward-Burkitt has served as vice-chair since 2018

Disaster recovery resources available for CRD residents impacted by flooding

Deadline is Aug. 5, 2020 to apply for disaster financial assistance

Williams Lake RCMP capture fugitive walking along Highway 97 in city limits

Witness said they could hear police yelling for suspect to ‘get down’

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

B.C. starts to see employment return under COVID-19 rules

Jobless rate for young people still over 20% in May

Kelowna Mountie on desk duty following ‘aggressive’ arrest

The officer involved in an arrest that took place on May 30 in Kelowna has been placed on administrative duties

Protests shift to memorializing George Floyd amid push for change

‘There is something better on the other side of this,’ says Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom

Limit gun capacity to five bullets, victims group urges Trudeau government

Current limits are generally five bullets for hunting rifles and shotguns and 10 for handguns.

Vancouver Island’s current COVID-19 case count officially hits zero

Of the 130 recorded Island Health cases, five people have died, 125 recovered

COVID-19: Closed B.C. businesses allowed to sell liquor stock

Sales allowed to other licensees that can reopen

Most Read