Distancing advocates from the concerns of the homeless


Winnipeg homeless advocates fear that the social distance message to stem the coronavirus wave will not reach the less fortunate in the city.

“If there is a positive test, it will complicate matters considerably. We want everyone to be as healthy as possible, ”said Jim Bell, CEO of Siloam Mission.

“When people are homeless, their health care is usually at risk, let alone virus-free. With something like coronavirus, it’s just amplified.

“Because if we meet someone who has been in contact with someone who is asymptomatic or has tested positive, it will make the problem worse. So we do everything we can to educate when people walk through the doors of our drop- ”and of course when people stay in our shelter, which has 110 beds a day. “

Bell’s fears were exposed Sunday in a downtown homeless camp and outside aid agencies.

These people say they know about the COVID-19 pandemic, but they fully admit that they don’t have all the facts.

Maybe that’s why their makeshift tents stay close to each other, or why they’re not embarrassed to stand next to their neighbor and share a smoke with them, that’s what it is. Free press reporter witnessed Sunday afternoon.

“I don’t know if any of them realize it’s (expletive) there,” said Kyle Bighetty, 30, who lives in a homeless camp at the corner of Henry Avenue and Austin Street. “I just don’t know what the virus is doing. I do not know. “

Bighetty and his community may not be COVID-19 experts, but that doesn’t mean they are not interested. Bighetty expressed her desire to learn more about the virus, as did two of her camp colleagues who approached the reporter and asked several questions to better understand what was going on.

“Apparently, it’s in the air that we breathe, right? Asked a curious Edward Fleury, who is also 30 years old.

Although they are in a high-traffic area, Bighetty and Fleury said they are not afraid of getting the virus. This does not mean that they have no worries.

Bell said he had also witnessed the same curiosity from the local homeless community. A few weeks ago, Siloam Mission brought in a volunteer doctor to inform visitors about the coronavirus and the measures to be taken.

“They were asking questions left, right and center about the virus,” said Bell.

While Siloam can impose social distance on the inside, outside is another story. Opposite the Salvation Army: the Hope Center building on Main Street, up to six people could be seen seated side by side on the sidewalk on Sunday. It was a similar scene behind the Center of Hope as nearly a dozen people stood in groups.

“I know that by talking daily with people from other shelters and people not only from shelters, but people from government organizations, whether it be the province or the city, this is a problem (problem)”, Bell said of social distancing. “As people, let’s say line up for a bag lunch in an organization that cares enough to distribute bag lunches, it’s hard to apply the rules of social distancing, even if you chalk up field. It helps, but (only to a certain extent)… It’s hard to apply, but I’ll tell you that there are conversations all the time at the shelter level with other organizations and those with whom we participate in phone calls to see what more we can do when the coronavirus runs its course. “

Self-isolation is not a realistic option for most homeless people. The provincial government is trying to help with a total of $ 1.2 million recently announced to the Siloam Mission, The Salvation Army and The Main Street Project for resources that can isolate the homeless with symptoms or whose test is positive.

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Twitter: @ TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor made her debut with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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