New units coming to help Winnipeg’s homeless population self-isolate, slow coronavirus spread

By | April 3, 2020

Winnipeggers experiencing homelessness will now have housing available to self-isolate while waiting for test results, or if they’ve already tested positive for COVID-19. 

A 39-unit apartment building is being retrofitted by Main Street Project and Manitoba Housing to serve as a quarantine space during the coronavirus pandemic. Main Street Project will be responsible for operating the building, with main funding coming from the province.

“Social distancing is a major priority for us when working with [homeless people],” said Lucille Bruce, the CEO of the non-profit End Homelessness Winnipeg.

Her organization has been helping to co-ordinate a COVID-19 emergency response team for Winnipeg’s homeless population, and has been working to get the isolation centre running.

Lucille Bruce is CEO of End Homelessness Winnipeg, which has been working with the provincial and city governments to set up a facility where the city’s homeless population can self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The COVID-19 response team has been working for weeks with over 60 stakeholders — including the city and provincial governments, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and shelters — to secure a quarantine location.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said on Tuesday he was in discussion with all levels of government about the quarantine facility. 

He said the isolation centre is one of city council’s top priorities during the pandemic.

Stakeholders are set to officially announce the facility later Friday morning, but are hesitant to disclose the location due to fear of stigma and discrimination. 

Main Street Project has also put out a call for donations of furnishings for the new quarantine space.

Other isolation facilities in the works

Earlier this week, the provincial government put out a request for proposals from the hospitality industry for vacant spaces like hotels, inns, modular housing and motels, that can be used by people who require isolation.

Lanette Siragusa, the chief nursing officer for Shared Health, said on Wednesday that the hotels could be used by those who are homeless. 

End Homelessness Winnipeg also said that the hotels are being considered as isolation units for youth who are experiencing homelessness. 

Other spaces are being reviewed as possible isolation units, like the third floor of the Salvation Army’s shelter, which is currently used as housing for families. 

Those families could be asked to move into hotels or other locations. 

As of Thursday morning, there were 167 reported cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba. The illness has resulted in one death in the province so far.

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