Person experiencing homelessness tests positive for COVID-19 in Winnipeg

By | June 16, 2020

WINNIPEG — One of Winnipeg’s most vulnerable segments of the population is now being faced with COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Winnipeg’s Main Street Project has confirmed that a person experiencing homelessness has tested positive for the virus.

It is not clear when the person tested positive, or how they contracted the virus.

On Monday, Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, would not confirm if anyone experiencing homelessness had the virus.

“We will make information public whenever we feel that it is putting Manitobans at risk,” Roussin said. “That’s been the message all along and it continues to be the message.”

In order to prevent any potential outbreaks among the city’s homeless population, the province previously set up a 39 bed isolation centre that provides a place to quarantine while awaiting test results.

Lanette Siragusa, the chief nursing officer for Shared Health, said on Monday that people went into the isolation centre last week, but did not provide further details.

“If it is an active case today, I think we should all be very concerned,” said Marion Willis of Morberg House, a transitional residence for men trying to beat homelessness, addictions, and mental health challenges.

“My greatest concern has always been that, if there was infection within the unsheltered population, there would be a very rapid community transmission.”

The Main Street Project has opened extra shelter spaces with physical distancing measures in place, but Willis says for some in the homeless community, that’s still not enough.

With a homeless encampment being removed by the city near the Disraeli Freeway, others are popping up.

“There’s certainly those that feel that living outside is a better option for them,” Willis said. “They feel safer and that’s what we hear from people.”

She said the real solution to contain the virus among the homeless population is to get people into permanent housing.

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