To find ways to safely serve the vulnerable population with the help that they need during the pandemic, the Isolation Shelter Command Team was established in April 2020 to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among individuals experiencing homelessness and precarious housing, and to mitigate risks associated with outbreaks in emergency shelters and within the community.

Meeting three times weekly, the Command Team is a subsection of the Vulnerable Populations COVID-19 Planning Table that was established in March 2020.

Last year, the Command Team developed and implemented protocols, procedures and pathways to effectively support isolation for vulnerable individuals. These remain in place to ensure people are connected to the appropriate places and services while minimizing the spread of COVID-19 among those experiencing homelessness and under-housing in Thunder Bay.

“The community is only as safe as its most vulnerable people,” said Cynthia Olsen, Chair of the Vulnerable Populations Table and Isolation Shelter Command Team, and Manager of Community Strategies at the City of Thunder Bay.
“The pandemic continues to create unique demands on those working in and utilizing the emergency shelter system, and those who are experiencing precarious housing. Public health regulations like physical distancing means not as many people can be served in one location, and individuals who are experiencing homelessness have no safe ways to self-isolate.”

She added that the COVID-19 Planning Table has an opportunity to show its role in identifying needs across multiple sectors and populations, and bring the many parties together for a coordinated response.

With St. Joseph’s Care Group as the lead agency, a dedicated, staff-supported isolation shelter continues to be available for safe and effective isolation spaces that comply with public health standards, including infection prevention and control standards. It would also not be possible without the funding provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada and their ongoing responsiveness to changing needs.

Membership of the group includes representatives from the City of Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay Fire Rescue, St. Joseph’s Care Group, District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board and Thunder Bay District Health Unit.

Regular briefing updates are also provided to community partners and other key stakeholders. There are many additional organizations contributing to the success of the Isolation Shelter Project, including NorWest Community Health Centres, Grace Place, Salvation Army, Superior North EMS, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre, Lakehead Social Planning Council, Alpha Court, Shelter House, Getting Appropriate Personal & Professional Supports (GAPPS) Program, Urban Abbey and People Advocating for Change Through Empowerment (PACE).

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Contact: Stacey Levanen, Supervisor – Corporate Communications & Community Engagement, 625-3650