Charlottetown shelters, soup kitchens working with thin margins of error when it comes to Omicron's spread

·2 min read
Lorraine Goley, manager of the Upper Room Soup Kitchen in Charlottetown, gets ready to serve some takeout to a client. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
Lorraine Goley, manager of the Upper Room Soup Kitchen in Charlottetown, gets ready to serve some takeout to a client. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 across Canada and P.E.I. is putting an especially challenging strain on organizations that serve more vulnerable community members.

Some groups have been forced to scale back services. Others are scrambling to keep the virus out — and keep clients coming in.

Brynn Devine, the co-founder of Blooming House women's shelter in Charlottetown, says the rise in COVID cases is amplifying the challenges her clients already face.

"We have a lot of different women coming in and out of the house," said Devine.

Brittany Spencer/CBC
Brittany Spencer/CBC

"They don't always have the luxury of being able to keep that tight 10, of being able to, you know, make sure that they stay home as much as possible. They don't have the same access to many of the things that we kind of rely on to keep ourselves safe."

The team at Blooming House have come up with a contingency plan in case anyone at the shelter tests positive. She said the province has supplied the shelter with rapid test kits that are used when a guest arrives and is symptomatic.

"We have two rooms in the house that are single bedrooms that we would put a symptomatic individual in and we can do that without jeopardizing our capacity."

A client who tests positive would then be moved to an off-site location, said Devine. Another concern is staff testing positive.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

"We only have 10 overnight shelter staff and we require two in the house at a time. So, that very quickly becomes unmanageable and unstaffable," she said.

If they did have to shut down, Devine said they would work with other community organizations to make sure no women end up on the street.

Takeout only at soup kitchen

The Upper Room Soup Kitchen in Charlottetown has moved to takeout only after a client tested positive for COVID-19, said manager Lorraine Goley.

"We've only got three full-time staff here. So if one of us gets sick with COVID, we've all got to go home and isolate," she said.

"So in that case, there's no soup kitchen. The kitchen will be closed. So in order to safeguard that, we've gone to takeout only so that we can stay safe and keep open."

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

They're dealing with these challenges at a time when demand at the soup kitchen is higher than ever, said Goley. They serve between 60 and 80 meals a day.

Demand is not the only thing at an all-time high. Goley said her clients are very concerned about catching COVID.

"I just say to them keep yourself safe by wearing your mask at all times even when you're outdoors … and always make sure that you keep people at a distance."

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