Local homeless up for vaccinations in phase two: County staffer says

·3 min read

A county representative says being vaccinated does not preclude anyone experiencing homelessness from accessing a shelter and nor will it impact how long they are permitted to stay.

The statement was provided to MidlandToday by Jan Janssen, director of children and community services, after the question came up at a recent Midland Homelessness Action Committee meeting.

"I'm just wondering if when they get vaccinated, will that disqualify them from the motel room?" said Coun. Bill Gordon, wondering aloud. "Clearly, it's not sustainable to keep housing people in motel rooms."

In her statement, Janssen said the efforts to ensure the safety of homeless populations will continue. In Simcoe County, she added, shelters are included in phase 2 of the vaccination roll-out.

"As such, it is anticipated that inoculation of shelter residents could begin as early as April 1, subject to vaccine availability," Janssen noted.

In addition to the cost of the actual motel rooms, she said, the county is also funding 24/7 staffing, security, deep-cleaning measures, personal protective equipment, and in some cases, food, and defibrillators.

On March 20, the county also authorized funding to support homelessness shelter service providers in relocating and housing their respective occupants within motels located throughout the region, Janssen wrote.

"The use of motel rooms has subsequently been cited by public health as best practice, relative to both physical distancing and isolation of individuals as required," she added.

Gordon was also curious about what would happen to the motel room arrangement during the summer.

"We don't know when the arrangements with the people living in the motel rooms is going to end," he asked. "I imagine when the weather turns nicer and the snow stops, even if motel rooms are available, is your sense that the folks that do like to live outside in a tent are going to head out?"

Janssen said there is no definitive date with respect to when the motel model will end.

"As previously articulated, shelter staff work with individual residents to assist them in obtaining permanent housing," she wrote. "This is done through a Housing First approach that emphasizes movement to tenancy and subsequent wrap around of supports, as required, at the individual level.

"Additionally, the County of Simcoe has provided motel shelter operators with funding to retrofit their home shelter locations and when it is safe to do so, in accordance with guidance from Public Health, the transition from motels, back to home shelters, will begin."

Janssen also said there are six homeless shelters and two out-of-the-cold programs in Simcoe County that have been in constant communication with county staff since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There have in been in ongoing communication with these service providers," she wrote. "This includes implementation of twice-weekly Zoom meetings, originally intended to provide an opportunity for the County and the shelters to share resources and supports, and to collectively plan around new and emerging needs."

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com