CBC’s flagship current affairs program, The Current, opened its episode on Thanksgiving Day with a timely and thoughtful trio of interviews on homelessness across the country. CBC's The Current: Homelessness & COVID in Canada
Host Matt Galloway began, appropriately enough, with a moving conversation with Raquel Winslow, a Coquitlam, B.C. woman who had been living on the streets for several years – until COVID came. A new shelter opened and she found herself with a room of her own. She is hoping this is a step to permanent housing, stability and peace of mind. Moving eastward, a Halifax-based street outreach worker said he has never seen such a pronounced proliferation of people experiencing homelessness in that city, prompting a follow-up question about this new cohort of people experiencing homelessness – those who have recently lost their lodging and ended up with nowhere to live.
ICHA Medical Director Dr. Andrew Bond, says the country’s housing affordability crisis, the serious barriers the homeless community faces in accessing income supports, and the increasing economic fallout from COVID have all contributed to the growth of the homeless population. The pandemic has a disproportionately adverse impact on them, s so many opted for encampments and the streets to stay safe and avoid the shelters’ confined quarters.
When asked to describe ICHA’s plan that has been used across the country to serve the homeless community during COVID, Dr. Bond highlighted several components:
· creating stand-alone isolation and recovery facilities to protect and provide health and social supports for those with the virus, or exposed to it;
· advocating for outreach, testing and surveillance within shelters to identify, care for and transfer to the safest possible place; and
· building a unique and robust system connecting and coordinating the housing homelessness sector and the health care sector to provide wrap-around support to people experiencing homelessness during COVID.