Supports coming for Victoria’s homeless amidst COVID-19

Supports coming for Victoria's homeless amidst COVID-19

Across the country, businesses are closing up shop because of COVID-19. And it’s producing an unintended consequence.

“Now washrooms are shut down everywhere, where do we go? We are all human beings,” said Frank Mayers, who is living in homelessness.

Right now, Mayers, like many people living in homelessness, are without access to basic needs.

“As homeless people, it is impossible to function now,” said Mayers.

“You know what hygiene is for me now? Is saying hi to a man named Gene who works for bylaw.”

Previous to COVID-19, shelters were already operating at full capacity.

And the close quarters, during a time when social distancing is so critical in curbing the spread of coronavirus, many of the city’s most vulnerable right now is unsafe.

“We need to understand that some of the most folks among us are those without homes,” said Emily Rogers, a legal advocate with Together Against Poverty Society.

But the City of Victoria, today announced reprieve. Lisa Helps announced new measures to help homeless people at a news conference, fittingly interrupted by a woman living in homelessness.

“What are do you doing to help me as a homeless person?” said Kris Green.

“We need people to have health care, we need people to have food and we need to have people not congregated in one place,” said Helps.

“We would love to have something in place by the end of tomorrow. Those are Herculean measures to get that in place. But this woman is absolutely right, people need access to health care, people need access to shelter and we’re doing everything we can as quickly as we can.”

The city is promising to repurpose underused city facilities for emergency shelters. And those directly facing COVID-19 say it can’t come soon enough.

“It’s scary, because where are we going to go if they shut down the homeless shelters, what are we going to do?” said Green through tears.

And Green is, unfortunately, one of many. The most recent homeless count found 1,525 experiencing homelessness in the Capital Regional District. Across BC? There are 7,655.

For the homeless in Victoria, details on what the new support looks, will come soon.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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