Outbreak among homeless grows in Nanaimo as those with COVID-19 have nowhere isolate


Homeless in Nanaimo are used to looking over their shoulders for dangers.

But with a growing outbreak of COVID-19 among the un-housed, it’s hard to tell who in his group has the virus, since so many are sick already, according to one homeless man.

“Have you heard anybody coughing or anybody with fevers around here?” said Josh, who refused to provide CHEK News with his last name. “All the time, all the time. I mean you’re out in the cold right, out in the rain and it happens, it’s happened a few times already this year.”

Tyler Golightly called COVID-19 a low priority.

“We don’t sit down and talk about it for too long. It doesn’t really affect our lives right now. We tend to choose things that affect our lives in the moment,” the 38-year-old  homeless man, who has been living in Nanaimo for the past 10 years, told CHEK News.

Last Friday (Oct. 1), the B.C. government announced that it would fund 50 isolation spaces in Victoria shelters for the unhoused with COVID-19 to have a safe place to isolate, in the wake of a cluster of 300 positive cases there.

However, the province’s announcement did not include isolation spaces for the unhoused in Duncan or Nanaimo, despite outbreaks in those communities too.

“We don’t have nowhere,” said Tanya Hiltz, an outreach worker for Nanaimo’s Wisteria Community Association. “Mainly they have to just go and take a tent and isolate.”

According to Hiltz, the number of homeless in Nanaimo is rising.

“Right now our numbers are going screaming mad. We do 125 meals a night. We are flat out by 8 o’clock at night,” she said.

David Eby, the province’s Attorney General and Minister responsible for Housing, said BC Housing is working on a solution.

“BC Housing is working overtime to make that happen. Victoria is a good example of how we’re making it happen and we know that Victoria is not the only area struggling with this,” said Eby.

Until then, outreach workers will keep watching for clients showing symptoms of COVID-19, and encourage them to find a safe place to isolate themselves.


Skye Ryan

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