In an effort to protect vulnerable people from COVID-19, authorities are working to keep Penticton’s Compass House winter shelter open until June.
The Main St. shelter supports 30 beds year-round, with an additional 25 beds during winter.
BC Housing said Thursday they’re prepared to extend operations across the board for those shelters who wish to remain open, pending staffing availability at each site.
The B.C. government explained that people experiencing homelessness often have higher rates of health concerns, and as a result could be at greater risk if exposed to COVID-19. For that reason, they said enhanced screening and cleaning protocols are in place at residential facilities to reduce the potential of the virus spreading within the building and beyond.
Typically, temporary winter shelters are used for immediate and short-term relief for people at risk, or people experiencing homelessness in communities where it is too cold to live or camp outside.
BC Housing explained that when they are not a long-term solution to homelessness, these shelters provide a safe place to sleep, as well as sanitation facilities and other supports.
“As British Columbians work to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Province is taking swift action to protect vulnerable people, including those experiencing homelessness, in communities around British Columbia,” read a statement by BC Housing.
On Saturday, March 21, the B.C. government announced a ban on evictions for non-payment of rent in BC Housing-funded buildings, the development of distinct protocols and identification of sites to support isolation for vulnerable people experiencing homelessness, the sustaining of service providers through continued payments, and centralized procurement for critical supplies needed by frontline providers.
“Frontline workers are working tirelessly to ensure that vulnerable residents are protected across the province, recognizing the significant added risks that vulnerable people face in the context of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“While all of us are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, there is no doubt that our most vulnerable populations including the homeless and the working poor are disproportionately affected,” added Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.