An Update on Efforts to Support Vulnerable Populations During COVID-19
The City of Kamloops is committed to minimizing the spread of COVID-19 and is working with Interior Health, BC Housing, and other community partners to implement a multi-stage COVID-19 housing strategy for vulnerable populations in our community. The provincial plan is focused on supporting people experiencing homelessness and people without safe spaces to self-isolate in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the burden on acute care facilities.
“We need to be prepared to support these members of our community at any stage of COVID-19: from prevention to treatment and recovery,” said Mayor Ken Christian. “This population has a high proportion of immune-compromised individuals and their inability to self-isolate poses a risk to themselves and those around them.”
As part of the plan, Emerald Centre and the Mustard Seed have increased physical distancing between shelter beds in their facilities. While this has increased the safety for shelter guests and staff, it has reduced the number of shelter beds available in the community. In response, the City is working with BC Housing and local non-profit housing providers to prepare two temporary overflow emergency shelter locations: one at 185 Royal Avenue and one at Memorial Arena. Both locations provide adequate space and amenities to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission among residents.
“To immediately address the capacity concerns, the Royal Avenue Temporary Shelter will be activated as early as next week. If that location exceeds capacity, the entire operation will move over to Memorial Arena,” said Christian. “It’s important that everyone has the opportunity to physically distance themselves and practise good hygiene in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
On April 7, the Province announced funding for 50 hotel beds to allow these residents to self-isolate if necessary. These rooms will be used for people awaiting test results or people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
To support people living outdoors, the City is opening all washroom facilities with access to hot water and relaxing its enforcement of the Temporary Overnight Shelter Bylaw during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bylaw officers will monitor camps to promote site safety and cleanliness and ensure physical distancing protocols are followed.
In addition, the City has worked with the Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society to extend the hours at the Cllémentem Mini-Storage at 48 Victoria Street West, which provides washroom, laundry, and shower facilities as well as access to mental health and substance use services from Interior Health. Cllémentem will now be open seven days a week from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.
“This pandemic knows no physical or social boundaries,” said Christian. “As the pandemic evolves, so will our response.”