Home for at-risk young men COVID-free after month-long lockdown

WINNIPEG — A man living at a transitional home for at-risk young men says, “the morale is pretty high,” after the facility announced it was COVID-free last Friday.

Pan Am Place residents celebrated their newfound freedom in each other’s company this past weekend, with pizza to boot and walks with their dogs, after the facility overcame five COVID-19 cases in just under a month of intense internal lockdown. 

“Going downstairs and being able to not wear my mask around the place, be able to sit downstairs in the lounge, just be like with the guys around the place as if it was before the COVID thing, it was a very surreal experience,” said Pan Am Place resident William “BJ” Heinrichs, who was the last person to get sick with the illness.

Heinrichs, who arrived at Pan Am Place from Addictions Foundation Manitoba, has lived at the transitional home for the past 13 months. During this time, the 29-year-old has secured full-time employment and tackled his addiction through ongoing dedication, Pan Am Place said in an Instagram post in early November. 

“People are just happy to be able to like work out together, train together and stuff again,” he said.

After a resident on one floor started showing symptoms of COVID-19 on November 9, immediate residence-wide testing eventually caught four other cases on the same floor. 

The lockdown for Pan Am Place’s 15 residents aged 18 to 35 meant they were mainly confined to their rooms with facility-wide mandatory mask and sanitation rules in place.

“It’s a pretty good set-up for these men, but to be confined to a 30-foot-square room all day, every day is pretty mentally tough,” said Aaron Black, manager of Pan Am Place.

In a recent phone interview, he said the facility prioritized getting donated cell phones to those who didn’t have one and providing entertainment. 

Residents continued attending Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings from isolation, said Black.

“Despite being in transitional housing with all these other barriers that they face, they really, really showed that they could put the work in and take care of each other, which is pretty incredible to see,” said Black.  

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