Less room, more restrictions at shelter
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/05/2020 (1125 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Late in the afternoon at Willow Place family shelter, some residents have begun to gather in the dining room for the first shift of the evening meal.
The room is small. It can only seat a couple of families under normal conditions, but with the shelter’s pandemic precautions and social distancing measures, there is only room for four at a time.
Meals, usually served by staff on washable dishware, are served on paper plates and slid through the kitchen window that is only open a tad. Snacks, usually available throughout day in the kitchen, are pre-packaged and distributed at specific times in the evening.
Sanitization at the 24-hour shelter takes place almost constantly.
“We provide service through a trauma-informed lens and also a harm-reduction lens,” says executive director Marcie Wood.
“Right now, we don’t feel like the guidelines really support that, but we don’t have a choice.”
The shelter, which normally has close to 40 residents, has had its capacity whittled down to only 17 people: one person or family per bedroom.
Residents, who are normally free to come and go with ease, have been asked to leave for only half-hour periods to reduce the risk of infection.
The need for the shelter’s other services, such as crisis lines and outreach counsellors, has been steadily on the rise, and Wood expects the demand will continue to climb as the pandemic drags on.
“What we’re seeing is that people are accessing outreach services more so than usual, probably because of the concern of entering the shelter at this time, we imagine, or maybe not having the ability to do that,” Wood says.
“We know that there’s people out there who need to use our service, and we want to make it available as soon as we can safely do so.”
Krystle, who has lived in the shelter in both COVID and non-COVID times, had to work with staff to co-ordinate a way to visit her dying grandmother on short notice amid the safety restrictions.
Though the extra barriers have been exhausting and challenging, Krystle says the safety of everyone at the shelter is top of her mind.
“It’s one of those times where you debate just walking out… because there’s so many things we have to do to get to that point to make it safe,” Krystle adds. “It’s not normal, nothing’s normal anymore.”
— Julia-Simone Rutgers