Sleeping bags are made up for the homeless as Our Place closes its drop-in amidst COVID-19. (Courtesy of Grant McKenzie/Our Place)

Social services groups take extra precautions for Victoria’s most vulnerable amid pandemic

Our Place, Cool Aid, Mustard Seed change procedure for sake of health and safety

Our Place Society closed its doors to comply with stricter health guidelines and growing concerns about COVID-19 means extra precautions.

Access to its drop-in space, computer lab, courtyard, hygiene and clothing area is closed but Our Place plans to continue operating its washroom facilities, transitional housing, shelter spaces and providing three meals per day.

“It’s heartbreaking for us to limit access to so many vulnerable people, but it’s the only way we can meet the province’s new pandemic regulations,” said Grant McKenzie, communications director of Our Place. “However, even in a time of crisis, we need to make sure our family members are being looked after to the best of our ability.”

Volunteer shifts at Our Place have been cancelled and staff will be stepping in to fill those roles. McKenzie noted there is a lot of fear associated with what happens when the virus begins to affect the people Our Place serves, but said staff will not abandon them. The Our Place kitchen is already planning how three meals per day will continue to be served on the street in front of the Pandora Avenue location.

READ ALSO: B.C. legislature to reopen with fewer MLAs to tackle COVID-19

Shelter space will also be reworked so proper social distancing guidelines are followed. The Our Place seasonal shelter will be closed as of Wednesday and the number of people who can access shelter mats at First Met and My Place will be limited.

“People will be displaced,” McKenzie said. “We are talking with the province to see if it can help us with an alternate housing plan for those people who have nowhere to go, but until that happens, people will be forced to sleep in parks and doorways.”

Some of the greatest needs for Our Place at this time are financial donations, single-person tents, sleeping bags and tarps. Those not wishing to go downtown can go to the New Roads Therapeutic Recovery Community located in View Royal at 94 Talcott Rd. Donations will be accepted Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

McKenzie noted that many people who use Our Place services are still just focused on day-to-day survival at the moment like where to get a meal and where to sleep. He said health issues are common amongst the population and while they’re not at risk right now to catch COVID-19 – since most don’t have the means to travel – once the virus hits the population he said the spread will be inevitable.

Victoria Cool Aid Society said procedures are being re-evaluated and updated as needed, with extra steps being taken to ensure proper care. Enhanced disinfection measures are being practiced in all public areas including the use of hand sanitizers and disinfectant spray.

Clients of the Cool Aid Community Health Centre are being asked to connect by telephone to address concerns where possible. The Cool Aid Dental Clinic is closed to all elective and non-essential dental services. It will be open for emergency concerns. The Downtown Community Centre has closed down operations meaning the programs, meetings and rentals held there will be cancelled until Island Health deems it safe to reopen.

READ ALSO: B.C. to suspend K-12 schools due to COVID-19

All Cool Aid housing and shelters remain open and tenants are asked not to allow guests into the building at this time.

Cash donations rather than items are being encouraged by Cool Aid and volunteers are being asked to stay away to facilitate social isolation. More information about Cool Aid procedures can be found at coolaid.org/our-impact/news-stories/cool-aid-services-coronavirus-pandemic/.

The Mustard Seed Street Church is also going to continue to serve Greater Victoria’s most vulnerable. The Queens Avenue location is closed down on the inside and staff will serve hot coffee and hot lunch out the kitchen door into the parking lot. Community members are asked to not hang around.

Gloved staff have also been packing hampers for families and seniors that will be distributed in the parking lot.

The Food Security Distribution Centre on Viewfield Road is closed down to all agencies picking up food. Only staff and a few screened volunteers are allowed on site and food orders will be placed in dock bay doors to be picked up outside of the warehouse.

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca


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Sandwiches are made for the homeless as Our Place closes its drop-in amidst COVID-19. All meals will now be served outside of 919 Pandora Ave. (Courtesy of Grant McKenzie/Our Place)

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