Nfld. & Labrador

Feds give $1M to house the homeless in St. John's during COVID-19 pandemic

End Homelessness St. John's has just shy of $1 million to feed and house people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Money helps expand shelter capacity, which has been limited due to rules on crowd size

The federal government provided $979,034 to provide more shelter beds for those in need in St. John's. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

The federal government has stepped up to help keep people off the streets of St. John's during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to make sure those who need to be quarantined can be safe. 

Ottawa has provided just shy of $1 million to End Homelessness St. John's, a non-profit organization that acts as a central point of contact for other community groups.

Doug Pawson, executive director of EHSJ, said the money will go a long way to keep a vulnerable population safe.

"It's really a huge help for us and our community and it will have a meaningful impact," Pawson told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

The money will fund two new shelters — one to add capacity to the current shelter system, and one specifically for people who require quarantine either before or after a COVID-19 test.

Pawson said the group has two locations in mind, but wouldn't disclose them due to complications with client confidentiality.

He did say, however, that EHSJ had a lot of positive responses from hotels in the city when staff reached out looking for help.

Doug Pawson is the executive director of End Homelessness St. John's. (Amanda Pfeffer)

Pawson said the shelter system is facing major constraints across the province, with many forced to limit their capacity to meet the orders on crowd sizes set by the chief medical officer of health.

Hotels, motels have been used before

The system in St. John's depends on non-profit providers and, when those are full, for-profit landlords who put up rooms with a nightly cost.

It is also common for the provincial government to use hotels or motels when there are no other options.

We know that it will be based on the capacity of the shelter system but we're looking to stretch this out over three to four months, minimum.- Doug Pawson

Some of the money will also go toward feeding people in isolation, as well as transportation to shelters, personal protective equipment for staff, support services, and incentives to get people stay in the shelters, such as cigarettes, phone cards and entertainment.

While $1 million sounds like a lot, Pawson said, it's going to have to last a long time.

"We put together a budget," he said. "We know that it will be based on the capacity of the shelter system but we're looking to stretch this out over three to four months, minimum."

Anyone needing shelter is asked to call the province's emergency housing hotline at 1-833-724-2444. Someone from Newfoundland and Labrador Housing will respond and start the process of getting the person into a shelter space.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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