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Shelter takes precautions, but services continue

The Salvation Army's Thunder Bay shelter has put a pandemic plan into place, but no impact to services so far
Salvation Army
The Salvation Army says it's taking precautions but able to operate as normal at its Thunder Bay shelter. (File photo)

THUNDER BAY – As advocates raise concerns over the impact of COVID-19 on the homeless, one Thunder Bay shelter says while it’s taking added precautions, it’s able to continue offering its services with few disruptions to its clients.

Local Salvation Army executive director Lori Mitchell says the organization has implemented some new protocols at its shelter, but haven’t had to restrict services.

“We’re taking it very seriously because we do recognize that we have vulnerable people,” Mitchell said. “Even something as simple as modelling how to do the hand-washing and insisting they use hand sanitizer, those types of things.”

Mitchell said the Salvation Army has activated an existing pandemic plan and she is receiving multiple daily updates from the organization’s Toronto headquarters.

So far, new procedures have included providing information to clients about health risks, proper hygiene, and social distancing, enhanced cleaning of high-traffic areas, requiring clients to use hand sanitizer before entering the dining area, cancelling meetings, and reconsidering any staff travel.

Mitchell said beds at the shelter are around three feet apart, which she believes is a larger buffer than some other shelters. And while the organization may have to ramp up measures as COVID-19 spreads, Mitchell says she’s focused on following the best advice from public health officials and avoiding panic.

“We’re just really encouraging the clients to be aware and to be safe,” she said. “We’re trying not to put anybody into a state of panic, but just helping them understand the seriousness of it and that we all need to work together to keep each other safe.”