‘Folks will die,’ Saskatoon housing advocate says as assist companies curtailed by COVID-19

Those on the front lines of the pandemic who support Saskatoon’s most vulnerable say they need to see a provincial government action plan as the province prepares for a second wave of COVID-19.

Carm Michalenko, CEO of the Saskatoon Community Foundation, says late last week, Saskatoon Inter-Agency Response executives held a virtual call to address the pandemic, and she says many of them were feeling the weight of the pandemic.

“You are tired,” she said.

“You knew this was coming. They follow every precaution, they close for the safety of the staff and the customers they serve, but at the end of the day those who serve are also affected. ”

She says the Saskatchewan government needs to develop a plan to guide these agencies through the second wave of COVID-19 and provide the resources necessary to ensure they are adequately equipped to serve those in need.

“It really feels like it’s the Titanic and it’s slowly going down and they use stickers,” she said. “They try their best with the resources they have, but those resources are dwindling in terms of their own staffing.”

CBC Saskatoon reached out to the Department of Social Services and the Saskatchewan Government Executive Board on Sunday regarding the concerns, but did not receive a response in a timely manner.

Over the weekend, the province recorded a total of 548 new cases of COVID-19, including 150 new cases in Saskatoon alone. Overall, the total number of active cases in the province rose more than 385 percent last month to 3,605 on Sunday, compared to 30 days earlier when there were 742 cases.

Of the 8,239 total cases in Saskatchewan, 4,589 cases – about 55 percent – are considered recovered.

Shutdown is Leave Hundreds of ready-to-drive food baskets cannot be delivered. 50 agency managers met yesterday – tired and beaten. @PremierScottMoe where is the support from social services to activate a “preparation / continuity plan” for this sector?

– @ carmmichalenko

Several of Saskatoon’s charities are currently facing restrictions due to COVID-19 and have therefore either temporarily closed their doors or changed their services.

Saskatoon’s monitored place of consumption in Prairie Harm Reduction is currently closed until December 7th due to a COVID-19 case at the facility and the Bridge on 20th Fellowship Center, which supports those in need, is closed until December 1st.

The lunch and breakfast service at the Friendship Inn is still take-away due to COVID-19 precautions and service restrictions at the largest animal shelter in the city at Lighthouse Supported Living should be checked on Sunday as this facility has been struggling with an outbreak since 23.10.

Carm Michalenko, CEO of the Saskatoon Community Foundation, says the frontline charities in Saskatoon are tired and are reaching out to the provincial government for a plan of action to protect the city’s most vulnerable during the pandemic. (Photo by David Waldner)

Michalenko said it was her understanding that at the core of Saskatoon there is only one point of contact that is only open on weekdays.

“We are in a period of panic where the response is really critical,” she said, noting that these agencies need the “full support” of government and public actors.

“Bring them all,” she said. “This is not a sector or department effort. The more solutions that come on the table, the faster you can get things done.”

“People will die”: advocates of the housing industry

Officials with the Saskatoon Housing Initiative Partnership, which aims to end homelessness in the city, say they need more resources from both the city and provincial governments in the form of more capacity and staff.

Lyn Brown, the partnership’s executive director, said she feared if things don’t change soon, things will get worse.

“I think our numbers will keep increasing,” she said. “I think we will have more COVID incidence in our homeless population and I think people will die.”

She believes that with the arrival of the cold in Saskatoon, the problem will be exacerbated as the partners in the city’s cold-weather strategy have had to reduce their numbers in terms of intake and the time people can spend inside.

Brown says there needs to be more support and capacity for members of the homeless population to isolate them if they are waiting for tests or have been exposed to the virus.

She says the city’s weakest are uncomfortable.

“It is certainly a challenge,” she said. “I would guess people are scared. They wonder what they’re going to do when it gets colder.”

Collaboration between authorities critical to responding to COVID-19

After the staff was tested and the facility was given a thorough cleaning, Laurie O’Connor, the executive director of the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Center, said the agency will resume their emergency grocery baskets on Monday after closing their doors for a week Has.

O’Connor said there will be some staff members while the food bank opens as some remain in isolation, noting that the pandemic has put additional pressure on facility staff.

Food Bank executive director Laurie O’Connor says the organization’s staff are working hard to keep people safe while making sure they get the support they need during the pandemic, but says they’d love to see a plan of the Provincial government would see the sector moving forward. (James Hopkin / CBC)

“Our people have been great but I’m sure they are feeling the strain and stress of insecurity that the pandemic brings and of course the extra work or stress you feel from trying to do your best and try to protect people, but there’s a virus out there. ”

She said the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Center would love to see the government’s plan to help those in need during the pandemic without increasing their vulnerability.

She also wants to see a guide from the province on when organizations like the Food Bank should act due to COVID-19 – and when not a lot of government action.

“It would be great if there was some kind of guide that tells organizations like us, ‘If this happens, do this. When this happens, do this’ so that we can make the best decisions for our organization and the community. ” She said.

O’Connor said with so many people dependent on the grocery bank, the weeklong shutdown had likely been difficult for customers, noting that while there were a few other support agencies people could have turned to the shutdown establishment is never the first option.

“It’s absolutely the last thing we want to do,” she said, noting that this was the first time in her 13 years with the organization closing its doors to the public. “There just wasn’t an event that forced us to close our doors and this was a particularly difficult decision, but we really wanted to stop the spread.”

O’Connor said while they haven’t seen much of the provincial government, they have been working with other agencies in the city to ensure their clients and the most vulnerable in Saskatoon are supported, but said more government action is needed.

“People who struggle to make ends meet will be much more vulnerable … and we should think about how we can support them.”

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