Saskatoon non-profits say the provincial government’s response to help the city’s homeless in the COVID-19 pandemic has been mired in bureaucracy and mixed messaging.

“We need aggressive timelines and we need staff in place,” said AIDS Saskatoon director Jason Mercredi. “We asked for it two weeks ago.”

Non-profits say they’ve spent two weeks lobbying for a dedicated hotel to house homeless people who need to self-isolate, and funding for emergency shelters for people who are healthy, but have no shelter.

Poverty has long weighed on Hugh Segal’s mind. For decades, the former senator has been a vocal champion for a guaranteed basic income to lift the country’s poorest out of the cycle of poverty. He credits his formative years, growing up in an immigrant family in Montreal’s working-class Plateau neighbourhood, for sowing the seeds of his advocacy.

“What bothers me the most about [poverty] is the amount of people whose lives are being wasted because they’re caught in a scramble of too many jobs, too little pay, insufficient resources to cover rent, food, transport, clothes,” he said, in an interview. “Their kids pay a huge price, and it produces all kinds of difficulties.”

After a homeless man who tested positive for COVID-19 was allowed to wander the city while waiting for his results last weekend, Quebec’s Health Ministry vowed to rectify the problem. They promised clients of the Old Brewery Mission access to a hotel room so they could self-isolate while their tests are being processed.

But as of Thursday, the health-care network is “having trouble delivering on that pledge,” according to Matthew Pearce, executive director of the Old Brewery Mission. Greville called around the city and health network to try to secure a hotel room, but to no avail.

The three homeless shelters in Guelph have been emptied and the 37 people staying in them have been moved to a local hotel to help weather the storm of COVID-19.

Shelters do not have the space or physical structure that allows for isolation and social distancing that are crucial to preventing the spread of COVID-19, said Lori Richer, housing stability manager for County of Wellington Social Services.

“People experiencing homelessness in their shelters are being relocated today to a hotel to facilitate the self–isolation and social distancing requirements outlined by Public Health,” said Richer. “This is a short term solution.”

COVID-19 could soon “explode” within Toronto’s homeless population as government actions to curb the spread of the illness have the opposite effect on those who live without housing, advocates and front-line workers say.

People who work with the city’s homeless say more are on the streets because many drop-in and respite sites have closed, while others must limit their numbers inside. Meanwhile, clients cannot practise safe social distancing inside those sites, nor can they easily go the bathroom or wash their hands because many food banks, restaurants and coffee shops have shut.

“If anything, the attempt to social-distance the general population is worsening the situation for people experiencing homelessness,” said Dr. Ritika Goel, a family physician who works with people experiencing homelessness.

COVID-19 could soon “explode” within Toronto’s homeless population as government actions to curb the spread of the illness have the opposite effect on those who live without housing, advocates and front-line workers say.

People who work with the city’s homeless say more are on the streets because many drop-in and respite sites have closed, while others must limit their numbers inside. Meanwhile, clients cannot practise safe social distancing inside those sites, nor can they easily go the bathroom or wash their hands because many food banks, restaurants and coffee shops have shut.

“If anything, the attempt to social-distance the general population is worsening the situation for people experiencing homelessness,” said Dr. Ritika Goel, a family physician who works with people experiencing homelessness.

Amid a public health emergency that relies on people keeping six feet apart to halt the spread of COVID-19, a team is putting on a full court press to deal with one group of citizens.

Housing Nova Scotia, the Halifax Regional Municipality, the YMCA, and agencies such as the Salvation Army and Shelter Nova Scotia are trying to reduce by 50% the number of homeless men and women crowding into emergency shelters.

“Those who are in a shelter or without shelter cannot self-isolate,” wrote Meghan Laing, Chair of Shelter Nova Scotia in a letter published on the website yesterday. “With large numbers in small spaces that is impossible. We are scrambling to find temporary alternatives to overcrowded conditions”.