Community organizations are keeping their doors open and creating new places for Winnipeg’s homeless population to use the washroom and wash up during the coronavirus pandemic.
The closure of libraries, community centres and other public spaces has left many homeless people in Winnipeg with fewer washroom options than ever.
That’s why local emergency shelter and food bank 1JustCity has put in a new portable washroom outside their Crossways in Common location.
“I think it’s just something that we all take for granted and there’s over 1,500 people in our city who can’t do that.” said Tessa Blake Whitecloud, executive director of 1JustCity.
Resource Assistance for Youth, another group that works with the homeless, has also installed a portable washroom outside their location on Sherbrook Street for the community they serve.
While portable washrooms can provide a temporary solution to the closure of public facilities, they don’t provide an area for Winnipeg’s vulnerable to access fresh water to wash their hands.
In response to the lack of public hand-washing stations, the West Central Women’s Resource Centre has created a COVID-19 plan that includes access to showers and an area to wash hands for women.
“We didn’t want to be a door that closed on them during this critical time,” said Lauri English, the centre’s executive director.
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While the resource centre, like many other community organizations, has suspended its regular programming, it is still offering take-away lunches and access to hygiene facilities.
As part of their COVID-19 response plan the centre performs screenings before allowing anyone into the building.
Like many other organizations they are also limiting the number of people who enter, in order to maintain a safe physical distance.
Other community organizations in the downtown that are keeping their washroom facilities open include ACCESS Downtown, Klinic, Sscope Inc. and the West End 24 centre.
Many outreach organizations in the downtown area are also providing homeless people in Winnipeg with hand sanitizer.
“(Homeless people’s) risk factor is very high because many of them have pre-(existing) health conditions and disabilities that they struggle with,” said Lucille Bruce, the CEO of End Homelessness Winnipeg, which has been spearheading the COVID-19 response team for homeless people in the city.
Working with the city and province they are encouraging portable washrooms and access to hand washing for homeless people.
However, their main priority is getting people off the streets and into safe spaces with access to proper hygiene and the ability to practise physical distancing.
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