Nova Scotia

Halifax homeless shelter closes, residents moved into hotel due to COVID-19 case

After a positive COVID-19 test result at a Halifax homeless shelter, the space has been closed and all residents are being moved into a hotel to self-isolate.

Public health is testing all staff and residents from the shelter

A homeless man sleeps in a sleeping bag on the sidewalk.
Some pop-up shelters have been established in Halifax to reduce the load on existing homeless shelters and allow for greater physical distancing. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in a Halifax homeless shelter and the province is moving everyone from the shelter into a hotel to self-isolate.

Public health learned a shelter resident tested positive for the virus on Thursday, Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, confirmed at Friday's coronavirus update.

Strang said a "vulnerable populations team" responded to the situation and found the hotel space.

He said everyone at the shelter was being considered a close contact of the person who tested positive, and they would all be tested for the virus.

"We're looking at how we're working with the homeless population in HRM, knowing there's quite possibly covid virus circulating through that population," Strang said.

Case at pop-up shelter

Jim Graham, executive director of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, said the case was at a pop-up shelter.

Those shelters were set up around Halifax in response to COVID-19 to reduce the load on existing homeless shelters and allow for greater physical distancing.

Graham's organization has been in charge of managing more than $1.5 million in federal funds directed at homelessness relief in Nova Scotia during the coronavirus pandemic, some of which has been used to staff the pop-up locations. 

Possible exposure to about 30 people

About 30 people, guests and staff included, could have come into contact with the individual, said Graham.

He said he was not surprised by the appearance of COVID-19 in a shelter because guests are free to come and go as they please.

Earlier this month, the Out of the Cold emergency winter shelter moved all its guests to private hotel rooms with the help of federal funding.

When asked if he thought the province should have moved shelter residents into hotels sooner in the pandemic, Premier Stephen McNeil said earlier decisions were made with the best available information at the time.

"We continue to work and ensure we provide supports for all of our citizens and ensuring we're doing it in the best possible way for public health," McNeil said.

As of Friday, there are 850 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.