‘It’s almost like a double challenge’: Homeless shelters preparing for winter with COVID-19

WINNIPEG — The temperature is dropping in Winnipeg, and for people experiencing homelessness, it’s a challenging time of year.

Drop-in/overnight Shelters like Main Street Project are working hard to keep people safe.

Director of Development, Anastasia Ziprick said the cold isn’t the only hurdle going into this season.

“The winter is always a challenge for this community and the second wave is presenting another challenge, so it’s almost like a double challenge,” said Ziprick.

Ziprick said when the pandemic first hit, the Main Street Project expanded into a loaned space on Desraeli Freeway to provide adequate distance between people.

She said it continues to analyze what’s best for the population.

“Capacity is always a topic of conversation,” said Ziprick. “It was in April and it continues to be now as the numbers increase for people accessing our services and people that need access to isolation space.”

On Monday, Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa spoke about the MSP’s isolation centre, and the high volume it’s seeing.

“There are currently 27 people isolating at that site right now, and their occupancy is 95 per cent, and the total number of people who have used the site since opening in April is 404,” said Siragusa.

Siloam Mission said when the pandemic first hit they had to shut down some of their programming in order to keep the community safe.

Director of Development, Kathy Neal said COVID-19 will impact how many people they can keep warm in the winter months.

“Because of the pandemic we’re only able to have people in the drop-in who are either staying in our shelter or in one of our programs,” said Neal.

“So we’re not able to invite the whole community in like we would normally speaking.”

She said instead of inviting people in to eat, Siloam’s been handing out bagged meals to keep everyone safe, while still providing some services.

Ziprick said Main Street Project’s outreach van patrol will run all winter to support people unsheltered or living in encampments.

They’ll also provide transportation to COVID testing, and if needed the isolation space.

“We’re confident that the community knows we’re a safe place to go,” said Ziprick. “Whether it’s from the cold or any COVID related symptoms, or the two, we’ll make sure people get the services they need.”

Main Street Project and Siloam Mission are reminding people donations of food and clothing can still be dropped off during the pandemic.

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