In order to flatten the COVID-19 curve, Canadians have been advised to stay home as much as possible and, when going out, to engage in social distancing. That advice is obviously impossible for Toronto’s homeless population to follow, especially those staying in the overcrowded shelter system.

Between April 7 and April 14, according to the City’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) and the Medical Officer of Health, the number of people living in Toronto shelters with COVID-19 grew from 6 to 30, with a dozen shelter workers also infected. The City said yesterday it has also transferred 176 shelter clients for testing and isolation.

The County of Simcoe held its first virtual council meeting on April 14, using ZOOM – and after a few technical glitches, dealt with issues that included the steps being taken by the county to address the COVID-19 emergency.

County councillors delegated authority to senior staff to disburse a total of $4 million in emergency funding, as the need arises – $2.44 million from the Provincial Social Services Relief Fund, and over $1.6 million in new federal funding, through the Reaching Home program.

About two dozen protesters, spaced far apart to observe the rules of social distancing, converged on Nathan Phillips Square on Wednesday, calling on the city to speed up efforts to make shelters for the homeless and refugees safer from the spread of COVID-19.

“People who live and work there are in danger — this is no way to flatten the curve,” said Dr. Michaela Beder, one 313 doctors and nurse practitioners who signed an open letter earlier this week calling on the city to enforce social distancing of two metres in shelters.

At least 30 people using homeless and refugee shelters in Toronto have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Tuesday.

The largest outbreak was reported at Willowdale Welcome Centre, a shelter for refugees in the city’s north end, said the CEO of Homes First Society, the organization that runs the facility.

“I’m worried about our clients, I’m worried about our management team, I’m worried about our staff, they’re quite frightened,” Patricia Mueller said.

For the self-employed in Canada’s gig economy, government relief programs with rigid barriers are forcing some tough choices. A childcare provider in Arnprior, Ont., agonized over reopening her shuttered home business to take in children of emergency workers on the frontline at the risk of exposing her family to the virus. In just three days, a Toronto makeup artist saw clients cancel appointments for the rest of the year.

Both face a gut-wrenching choice. If the daycare provider takes in one or two children, or if the makeup artist books a few new jobs, the resulting income still won’t be enough to live on. It will, however, put them at risk of disqualification from the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB), the federal aid package intended to shore up lost income during the pandemic.

We have missed the opportunity to end poverty for a whole generation of children.

Precarious and low wage work is widespread and social assistance rates remain abysmally low creating a floor that is only one small step above destitution.

The rise in housing costs, food prices, childcare fees and cost of prescription medication along with other necessities means families are left to make difficult choices every day about what they can afford and what they must do without.

A homeless shelter for men will soon be closing its doors because of COVID-19 concerns.

Chatham Hope Haven officials announced over the weekend that April 25 will be the last night overnight accommodations will be offered because of volunteer safety risks and concerns of infection.

General manager Wanda Bell says the shelter is now looking to the municipality to help find accommodations for 15 regular shelter users.