“We are being hit really hard,” Saskatoon chief executive Mark Arcand told Global News.
He spoke about the staff at the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC)’s Emergency Wellness Center. The Saskatchewan government declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the site on January 21.
Almost all the agencies that shelter homeless and vulnerable people in Saskatoon are dealing with outbreaks.
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The STC Center, the YWCA Crisis Shelter and the Brief and Social Detox Unit are just a few of the facilities listed on Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 outbreak list last week.
But representatives told Global News that they can still provide services.
Although he did not know the exact number of staff members who were ill, Arcand said the center is run by having part-time and casual workers fill in for the full-time employees who are unable to come to work due to COVID-19.
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He said the center still has (and over) capacity and still provides services, albeit slower than usual as workers adapt to their new roles.
“They just come in blind,” he said, “and say, ‘OK, you have to fill in here. Are you going to do it? ‘”
Arcand said it believes Omicron is spreading through the city’s vulnerable population because it is highly transmissible and because not all homeless and vulnerable people have been vaccinated.
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“If they are indigenous people, they know the government has not treated them too well,” he said. “There have been a lot of negative systems and they may not trust the government.”
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He told Global News that working with vulnerable people requires them to accommodate their sensitivity and beliefs.
“We do not judge them, we do not treat them differently. Our services are still there, ”he said.
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Marlo Pritchard, president of the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, said during a provincial COVID-19 briefing that the government sees a small increase in the number of vulnerable people who need to be housed at assisted self-isolation sites (ASIS) due to the disease. .
“While most of the shelters are able to manage (the outbreaks) within their own protocols, we are seeing a slight increase in individuals from the shelters gaining access to our ASIS hotels,” he said.
Carla Delgado, the YWCA’s director of engagement and development, said the crisis shelter was still full and providing services as usual.
“We are normally working with the current security measures we have in place … fortunately we have not locked any rooms or turned anyone away due to the outbreak,” she said in a telephone interview.
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In a statement, a spokesman for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, which runs the Letter Detox Unit, said “at this stage staff are handling case charges and incoming claims” without disrupting services.
The Salvation Army Crossroads Center, the Meewinsota CFR, a halfway house, and Interval House, a temporary shelter for women and children, are also listed on the outbreak site.
The Salvation Army did not comment on the deadline to publish.
A representative for Meewinsota declined to comment and no one from Interval House responded to Global News’ calls.
Delgado said YWCA staff will continue to work to keep the crisis shelter (and transitional housing sites) open.
“We are always at capacity. “Unfortunately, it is too bad, because there is a great need for it,” she said.
Arcand said he hopes the Omicron wave will disappear in the next few weeks so that “we can return to the right jobs to help people… and make sure everyone is safe.”
“If you’re homeless or vulnerable, (you should) be safe out there.”
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