The Region of Peel and its partners announced late last week that they are cautiously encouraged that protection protocols in shelters, transitional housing and street outreach, as well as temporary emergency housing for homeless individuals to self isolate and recover, are helping to flatten the curve of COVID-19 spread in the community’s most vulnerable population.
As a key protection measure, Peel is using hotels and other temporary sites to reduce shelter occupancy and ensure appropriate physical distancing. Currently, just over half of shelter residents are in hotels, with 405 (51 per cent) of people in hotels, 366 (47 per cent) people in shelters and 17 people (2 per cent) in homeless isolation or recovery programs. In March, a collaborative group of medical, health and social service experts put in place isolation and recovery sites to help fight the spread of COVID-19. “By acting quickly through upstream public health interventions, we were able to support people experiencing homelessness in the Region of Peel, and very possibly saved lives in the process,” said Dr. Naheed Dosani, Peel Region’s Medical Director, COVID-19 Homeless Response.
“The first measures were based on prevention, where currently 51 per cent of homeless residents were offered and now reside in hotels. This promoted physical distancing within the Region’s shelters. The second was a rapid, mobile and scaled-up response with testing at sites. “For those suspected or confirmed to have the virus, holistic wraparound health and social care, including mental health and primary care, was provided with the ultimate vision to support clients with pathways to housing with stable health,” said Clinton Baretto, Nurse Practitioner, Peel COVID-19 Homeless Isolation and Recovery Program.
“The downstream result: only a handful of cases have been diagnosed and more people are connected to health and social supports than ever before.” “As COVID-19 numbers have reduced, isolation and recovery programs put in place appear to be flattening the curve of COVID spread in Peel’s shelter system,“ said Aileen Baird, the region’s Director of Housing Services. The isolation program has capacity to shelter up to 100 households who are homeless or can’t self-isolate and who have risk factors for exposure or have been tested for COVID-19.
The recovery program supports homeless individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and provides both medical and social supports. It has capacity to support 40 individuals. Currently, 17 shelter residents (2 per cent) are in the homeless isolation or recovery programs, with 4 individuals who have tested positive in the recovery program. “We’re ensuring that residents in our isolation and recovery program receive primary health care, provided by our Medical Director and Nurse Practitioner, receive aftercare from our Nurse Practitioner upon recovery, and we are connecting them with primary care providers for the long term,” said Baird.
“That’s a key focus on stabilizing people in our shelter system. We continue to work in partnership with our residents to assist them in finding permanent housing and then provide them with supports to assist them to keep their housing.” The collaborative partnership responsible for designing and implementing the homeless shelter system isolation and recovery programs include a health team of a Medical Director and Nurse Practitioner, and support from numerous community and government groups, including Peel Public Health, Canadian Mental Health Association Peel-Dufferin (CMHA), Central- West Local Health Integration Network, Regeneration Outreach Community (nursing supports), Services and Housing in the Province (SHIP) and Peel Regional Paramedics, among others.
“Delivering municipal human services during the COVID-19 response has called for collaboration on a whole new level,” said Janice Sheehy, Commissioner, Human Services, Region of Peel. “Supporting people experiencing homelessness in a pandemic meant leading a broad community effort involving nonprofits, service organizations, paramedics, our local municipalities and health care providers.” Residents needing help finding a shelter can contact the Region at peelregion.ca/housing.