THE Salvation Army now has a 23-bed wing available for homeless people with flu-like symptoms.
"If you or I feel sick, we go home and get into bed," said Karen Hoeft, assistant executive director and community relations at the Salvation Army's Booth Centre downtown. "If a person is living on a mat, or in a dorm that they must vacate during the day, that leaves them outside and if they have flu-like symptoms, being on the street can cause complications."
The wing, which is in the Booth Centre at 180 Henry Ave., became available this month after the move of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's Crisis Stabilization Unit to its new location on Portage Avenue.
The new wing is not intended for people who show complications that indicate H1N1. They will still be sent to hospitals. Whether a person is ill enough to get a bed or whether they need to be sent to acute care will be discretionary.
The shelter has teamed up with the government and other organizations to run the wing efficiently. When someone comes into the facility, a basic questionnaire from the WRHA has been drafted that asks a person, "how are you feeling?"
During flu season, the shelters always see an influx of people, said Hoeft, but she expects there will be a higher demand for these beds than there would normally be.
Hoeft said the decision to use the space as an influenza recovery area was made jointly with the government.
"We have been very engaged with the government in discussing long-term holistic strategies," said Hoeft.
"This was a priority."