Update: At all of its shelters Homes First is implementing a screening tool that the City of Toronto developed in conjunction with Toronto Public Health for persons that may be exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. The City is opening a new program that will allow those being tested or told to self-isolate to stay out of the shelter system. Transportation can be arranged to nearby testing centres as well.
At Homes First, the health and safety of our clients, residents and staff are paramount. As information about the Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, continues to evolve, we are in regular contact with Toronto Public Health and are following their protocols along with those of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, and the Government of Canada.
Individuals experiencing homelessness may be at a greater risk of getting an infection and developing severe complications due to their health, social, and economic circumstances. In addition, minimizing close contact with others during the peak of an outbreak may not be feasible for those who work or reside in congregate shelter settings.
Given the vulnerability of the diverse population we serve, we are taking precautions to minimize risk and exposure to our clients and staff. To that effect we are taking the following steps:
- In response to Public Health Officials, staff who have recently travelled outside of Canada are asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
- As usual, staff who are feeling unwell should not be reporting to work.
- All staff are urged to use universal precautions and Personal Protection Equipment at all times.
- Encouraging clients who are ill to seek medical attention.
- Encouraging all staff and visitors to practice proper hand hygiene, including frequent hand washing.
- Increased touch point cleaning at all of our sites including:
- High-touch surfaces (e.g., door knobs, light switches, handrails).
- Common areas (e.g., dining rooms, sleeping quarters, bathrooms).
- Shared equipment (e.g., telephones, computer keyboard, walkie-talkies).
- Practicing social distancing including:
- Limiting exposure to respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes (e.g., stand next to rather than in front of the client who has respiratory symptoms).
- Clients/participants to not share items that come into contact with the mouth or nose (e.g., drug-use equipment, drinking utensils, cigarettes).
- Cancelling all non-essential programs and gatherings.
- Cancelling all volunteer shifts.
- We have developed a COVID-19 response team to monitor and coordinate with Toronto Public Health and the City’s Shelter Housing and Support Administration (SSHA).
City’s Shelter System Response
The City of Toronto has established an Emergency Operations Centre and is working on a response should there be an outbreak in the shelter system. They are actively looking to acquire extra space if the need develops for the isolation of residents.
- City of Toronto Fact-Sheet Novel-Coronavirus
- Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness
- Ontario Public Health
- COVID 19 self-assessment tool – Ontario Government
- Canada Public Health
Thank you for your understanding. We are working with our health partners to ensure we have current information and will provide updates as they become available.
Chief Executive Officer, Homes First Society