5 clients at Calgary Drop-In Centre test positive for COVID-19

A Calgary homeless shelter is reporting an outbreak of COVID-19 with five cases, which prompted the testing of 240 clients and staff.

1 case of COVID-19 has also been confirmed at Calgary's Alpha House

The Calgary Drop-In Centre says five people staying in its main shelter downtown have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. (Google Street View)

Two Calgary homeless shelters are reporting cases of COVID-19.

The Calgary Drop-In Centre said that as of Wednesday, five people staying in its main shelter downtown had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

It said more than 140 clients and 100 staff have been tested on-site since the shelter reported its first case a week ago.

People are waiting for test results in a hotel that is being used as an assisted isolation site, as well as at the Drop-In Centre's satellite shelter.

A spokesperson with Alberta Health said Thursday that one new case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Calgary's Alpha House. An outbreak was also reported at the facility in May.

"Alberta has a strong record of protecting residents in shelters and other congregate living settings," said Tom McMillan with Alberta Health in an email.

"Health officials have acted quickly and are working closely with both facilities. Proven processes are being implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of everyone involved."

The Alberta government announced $48 million in new funding last month to support shelters and community organizations that help people without homes.

The province has not specified how the money is being divvied up or how many spaces it could create.

Alternative overflow options

Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney has said overflow shelter sites at convention centres in Calgary and Edmonton won't be reactivated as demand increases in the winter.

The province wound down the temporary shelters at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre and Edmonton Expo Centre this summer, and Sawhney said alternative overflow options were being explored.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city is working with the province to find a new overflow emergency shelter for the homeless population this winter.

"In my mind, it is going to be important for us to have that space available in the winter," Nenshi said. "Number one, because people who have been sleeping rough may not be able to do that through the winter.

"And number two, because we have to make sure that we're ready in case there are outbreaks."

Nenshi said the province will fund the overflow shelter, but the city is involved in recommending a suitable site. He said he is encouraging the province to look at using empty hotels or buying old ones for sale to provide a longer-term solution to homelessness.

With files from Scott Dippel and Helen Pike


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