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Emergency Preparedness

Province secures safe shelter, supports for people living in major encampments

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Emergency Preparedness

Province secures safe shelter, supports for people living in major encampments

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236 478-1336
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Media Contacts
Joint Information Centre
Media Relations
236 478-1336

Backgrounders

Vancouver decampment plan

Given the health risks associated with COVID-19, the Province is taking necessary steps to support the transition of approximately 200 people living at Oppenheimer Park into temporary shelter and managed emergency response centres.

This critical action will assist people living in the park by providing a safe place to stay, enabling appropriate physical distancing and improving access to hygiene facilities and social supports.

Work to move people out of the park has been underway for months, but starting April 25, 2020, and over the coming weeks, BC Housing will lead a co-ordinated plan that will quickly move people into temporary accommodations.

Supports offered to people during the move include:

  • outreach and case management services;
  • prior to moving, each individual will be assessed by outreach workers to match them with the site that best meets their needs, as well as their preference;
  • all individuals will be provided with two bins for their belongings;
  • transportation of belongings and people;
  • storage of additional belongings, if needed;
  • food, cleaning and security services; and
  • mental and physical health services, including overdose prevention.

Temporary accommodation sites in Vancouver:

  • Vancouver: 10 sites, 686 spaces, including:
    • eight hotels
    • two emergency response centres: Coal Harbour Community Centre with 64 beds and Roundhouse Community Centre with 79 beds
  • Access to emergency response centres and designated hotels will be referral-only.
  • Support services include daily meals, Wi-Fi and cleaning services.
  • 24/7 staff on site managed by experienced non-profit housing providers.
  • Health-care services include access to mental health and addictions treatment, as well as primary care.
  • A portion of these spaces will be used for people who have COVID-19.

Emergency response centres and designated hotels are an interim housing and shelter solution to reduce homelessness and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In addition to supporting individuals to move out of Oppenheimer Park, the Province is working to assist others in the Downtown Eastside who are experiencing homelessness and in need of a safe space to self-isolate. This includes working with the City of Vancouver to provide daily meals to 1,683 households and regular deep cleaning of 114 single-room occupancy hotels in Vancouver.

Victoria decampment plan

Given the health risks associated with COVID-19, the Province is taking necessary steps to support the transition of people living in unsafe, dense encampments on Pandora Avenue and Topaz Park, into temporary accommodations.

This critical action will assist people living on the streets and in the parks by providing a safe place to stay, enabling appropriate physical distancing and improving access to hygiene facilities, health care and social supports.

Starting April 25, 2020, and over the coming weeks, BC Housing will lead a co-ordinated plan that will support people to rapidly move out of the encampments and into temporary accommodations where people will be able to self-isolate.

Supports offered to people during the move include:

  • outreach and case management services;
  • prior to moving, each individual will be assessed by outreach workers and Island Health to match them with the site that best meets their social and health needs, as well as their preference;
  • all individuals will be provided with two bins for their belongings;
  • transportation of belongings and people;
  • storage of additional belongings, if needed; and
  • mental and physical health services, including overdose prevention.

Temporary accommodation sites in Victoria:

  • Five hotels, 324 spaces
  • Access to hotels is by referral only.
  • Support services include daily meals, Wi-Fi and cleaning services.
  • Health-care services include access to mental health and addictions treatment, as well as primary care.
  • Staff on site 24/7, managed by experienced non-profit housing providers.

Designated hotels are an interim solution to reduce homelessness and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Supports for vulnerable people during COVID-19

The B.C. government is working in partnership to build supportive homes for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

In just over two years, government has built more than 2,100 supportive homes, with more than 900 additional homes underway and a goal of 4,900 over 10 years.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Province has been working with BC Housing, regional health authorities, municipal partners and experienced non-profit shelter and housing providers to develop community-based response plans to the virus.

This work includes identifying locations where vulnerable individuals, including those who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, would be able to recover and self-isolate. Those accessing the sites include people who do not have symptoms, but may be immune compromised or otherwise at high risk.

As of April 23, 2020, BC Housing has procured nearly 2,750 spaces across the province for vulnerable people to recover and self-isolate, including hotels, motels and community centres.

Vancouver Coastal: 14 sites, 768 spaces

  • Sechelt: one site, 15 spaces
  • Squamish: three sites, 67 spaces
    • includes 49 spaces at Xwu'nekw Park
  • Vancouver: 10 sites, 686 spaces
    • includes 64 beds at Coal Harbour Community Centre and 79 beds at Roundhouse Community Centre

Fraser: 16 sites, 563 spaces

  • Abbotsford: three sites, 62 spaces
    • includes 40 beds at Bakerview Mennonite Brethren Church
  • Burnaby: one site, 100 spaces
  • Chilliwack: three sites, 49 spaces
  • Hope: one site, 14 spaces
  • Langley: one site, 12 spaces
  • New Westminster: two sites, 76 spaces
  • Richmond: one site, 50 spaces at Thompson Community Centre
  • Surrey: four sites, 200 spaces
    • includes 110 beds at North Surrey Recreation Centre

Interior: 29 sites, 679 spaces

  • Cranbrook: two sites, 37 spaces
  • Kamloops: four sites, 110 spaces
    • includes 50 beds at Memorial Arena
  • Kelowna: four sites, 120 spaces
    • includes 40 beds at Kelowna Curling Club
  • Nelson: four sites, 63 spaces
    • includes eight beds at Kalein Hospice Centre
  • Penticton: five sites, 137 spaces
    • includes 80 beds at Victory Church of Penticton
  • Revelstoke: two sites, 12 spaces
  • Salmon Arm: two sites, 63 spaces      
    • includes 58 spaces at McGuire Lake Park
  • Trail: one site, three spaces
  • Vernon: four sites, 114 spaces
    • includes 70 beds at Vernon Curling Club
  • West Kelowna: one site, 20 spaces

Vancouver Island: 14 sites, 470 spaces

  • Campbell River: two sites, 58 spaces
  • Courtenay: one site, 10 spaces
  • Duncan: one site, 7 spaces
  • Nanaimo: two sites, 13 spaces
  • Parksville: one site, 12 spaces
  • Port Hardy: one site, 1 space
  • Sooke: one site, 45 beds at SEAPARC Leisure Complex
  • Victoria: five sites, 324 spaces

North: 20 sites, 269 spaces

  • Burns Lake: one site, 10 spaces
  • Dawson Creek: one site, 10 spaces
  • Fort St. James: one site, 10 spaces
  • Fort St. John: two sites, 20 spaces
  • New Hazelton: one site, 10 spaces
  • Prince George: four sites, 75 spaces
  • Prince Rupert: two sites, 55 spaces
    • includes 35 beds at Fisherman’s Hall
  • Quesnel: two sites, 10 spaces
  • Smithers: three sites, 39 spaces
  • Terrace: two sites, 25 spaces
  • Vanderhoof: one site, five spaces

Total: 93 sites, 2,749 spaces

  • Access to these spaces is by referral from local health authorities, who work with operators directly to place guests.
  • BC Housing is working with local health authorities and will continue to add spaces as and when the need is identified by the health authorities. As contracts are finalized for hotel and city-owned locations, new sites will be listed on BC Housing’s website: https://www.bchousing.org/COVID-19/community-sites
  • All service providers follow BC Centre for Disease Control and health authority direction in terms of self-isolation and visitor policies at their buildings:
    • Every individual must follow isolation protocols and service providers work to ensure all individuals who require self-isolation are doing so.
    • Staff monitor who goes in and out of these locations and are provided with personal protective equipment.
    • Guests are provided with daily meals, cleaning services and medical care for those who require support while in isolation.
  • BC Housing is also working with its partners and housing operators to provide training and support in encouraging physical distancing, best practices in building cleaning and maintenance, identification of on- and off-site isolation spaces and access to testing and other services.
  • In addition to these sites, BC Housing has worked with its partners to keep some temporary winter shelters open until the end of June for people experiencing homelessness across the province. Temporary winter shelters normally close at the end of March each year.

The Province is also working with partners to develop additional supports during this time for vulnerable populations experiencing existing challenges like poverty, homelessness and mental health and addictions.

  • People currently receiving income assistance or disability assistance will not see any reductions to their assistance payments because of federal employment insurance benefits, including the new $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), for April, May and June.
  • For everyone currently on income assistance or disability assistance who is not eligible for the emergency federal support programs, including the CERB, the Province will provide an automatic $300 monthly COVID-19 crisis supplement for April, May and June.
  • The BC Centre on Substance Use has created new clinical guidelines for health-care professionals to help reduce the risks to a vulnerable and often immune-compromised population. The guidelines outline how prescribers, patients and pharmacists can work together to stay safe by delivering medication to patients, using virtual technology for consultations and witness injections, and give patients longer carries of medication.
  • The Province has provided a $3-million emergency grant from the Community Gaming Grants program to Food Banks British Columbia. Food Banks British Columbia will distribute the money among food banks provincewide to support their immediate needs, including buying and distributing food, paying employees and covering other costs essential to the delivery of their food programs.

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