Pop-up isolation shelter created for Winnipeggers experiencing homelessness

A Winnipeg organization concerned for the city’s most vulnerable is setting up a pop-up isolation shelter as the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, continues to spread across Canada and around the world.

St. Boniface Street Links is working to create a safe space for people experiencing homelessness during the worldwide pandemic.

The group rented out the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain to use as a pop-up shelter for people who need to self-isolate but don’t have a residence in which to do so.

Upon entry, Street Links says each person will be searched for drugs and weapons.

Marion Willis, founder and executive director of St. Boniface Street Links, says a 24-hour paramedic service, Extreme Medics, has offered to supply the pop-up shelter with an ambulance and four paramedics. Extreme Medics will also give training to staff and volunteers on proper handwashing and sanitary methods.

Inside the building, there are 40 gym mats for sleeping, each spread eight feet apart to promote social distancing.

While the idea was spearheaded by Street Links, putting the shelter together has been a team effort.

Winnipeg chef Ben Kramer donated food to the organization, with enough vegetables to make soup for residents for up to 50 days.

Café Postel is also pitching in, offering coffee equipment to the organization as well what’s left of the café’s stock. The café’s website also lets customers donate a cup of coffee to the shelter with an online purchase.

The biggest challenge, according to the group, is finding enough showers for residents, as the building only has one available. Willis says Street Links is looking for nearby showers residents can access.

Cleanliness and sanitization are the top priority for the shelter, as Willis has organized “cleaning teams” that are scheduled to clean four times during each 24-hour period.

For people who are unable or unwilling to use the shelter, St. Boniface Street Links’ outreach van will drive around to connect with people living in encampments, according to Willis.

Street Links will be offering food, coffee and clean, dry blankets twice daily as well as monitoring for symptoms to those living in encampments.

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