Here’s how Regina’s homeless, and the centres that serve them, are being impacted by COVID-19.
Newo-Yotina Friendship Centre
The Newo-Yotina Friendship Centre in downtown Regina is staying open amid COVID-19 concerns and precautions and preventative measures are underway to protect its staff and clients.
“Let’s do what needs to be done because we don’t want to have people shut out,” said Michael Parker, Executive Director of the centre.
Right now the centre is limiting its services to essential services only to reduce the amount of traffic coming in and out of the building.
Essential services include toast and coffee in the morning for its visitors and access to a telephone. Health support workers will also be provided on a case by case basis or emergency type circumstance.
All social, recreational and educational programming is suspended until further notice.
On Monday morning, 77 people visited the centre and staff only allowed 10 people inside the building for 10 minutes to get what they needed, similar to a drop in centre. A hand washing and sanitizer station was also set up at the front door and all visitors were required to wash their hands and using sanitizer.
“The standard advice of self-isolating at home is pretty hard to apply when you don’t have a home or you’re living in an inadequate or substandard housing. With the closure of the libraries and other community agencies we do anticipate there will be a continued need for the friendship centre and its services so we intend to try and stay available and accessible but being mindful of this unique circumstance,” he said.
Regina Food Bank
The Regina Food Bank also has plans to stay open and they are rethinking in the way they operate and interact with their clients.
“Not delivering our services is not an option because if we don’t do it then that is food that people don’t have. We don’t have the option for a 30 day social distancing. Clients need their daily food,” said John Bailey, CEO of the Regina Food Bank.
The Food Bank is currently in the process of putting up unobtrusive barriers to keep its staff and clients from physically contact. The 22 staff members and about 300 volunteers will also wear protective equipment like rubber gloves and masks and use new cleaning protocols.
The food bank is also wanting to get away from using milk crate hampers and instead just have the hampers ready to go. Staff are also seeing what they can do to reduce people waiting in line for their food hamper while staying in close contact among one another.
The food bank currently eight weeks worth of food available for it’s clients and Bailey does not have any concerns they will run out but he does predict there will be a drop in donations with the cancellation of numerous community events where donations would usually come in. Bailey encourages those who want to donate to the food bank, the easiest way is to make a cash donation online and to help prevent the spread of COVID 19.
“That allows us to make sure we’re buying the food that we need. I know some other food banks across Canada are not as fortunate as us so we’re quite lucky in that we have 8 weeks of food but that being said in the lives of people who need our services every two weeks, eight weeks is not a long time so we have to make sure we’re managing that as effectively as we can so we can stay in service through the whole length of this pandemic reaction and into the future,” added Bailey.
Carmichael Outreach Centre
Carmichael Outreach Centre is closing its doors until further notice and donations of any items will not be accepted.
Please see below our update regarding the COVID-19 virus.
Our centre will be CLOSED until further notice. Programs will proceed as outlined below. pic.twitter.com/uz3YKRKfmA
— Carmichael Outreach (@CarmichaelOR) March 16, 2020
The housing support program will not be taking new intakes until further notice and existing clients of the program will continue to be served. Those clients are asked to reach out by phone.
The centre is still providing free coffee, meals, children’s needs, hygiene products, pet food and will be handed out from the front door during the day. Food donations are only being accepted on Mondays.
The Free Boutique for clothing will also be closed until further notice.
Parker with Newo-Yotina Friendship Centre says by 3pm, Monday afternoon, a conference call was underway between local community agencies, social services and City of Regina to come up with a plan to coordinate services together to help the homeless and most vulnerable.
“With the closure of a lot of public services and businesses, the impact it has on people who are the most vulnerable or people with low income, they are not able to stock up in the same way as people who have a higher income. There’s also issues around transportation. If you don’t have a vehicle and you need to stock up, are you going to pay a cab to drive to ten different grocery stores to see what you can get and where you can get it? That’s just not going to happen,” said Parker.