Community rallies to help Kenora Fellowship Centre continue to serve city's most vulnerable people
Executive director says ‘we see the fear in people’s faces’ as pandemic measures forces more isolation
The Kenora Fellowship Centre opens its doors every morning to serve the most vulnerable people in the small northwestern Ontario city. Now, staff are finding their services are in even greater demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the world.
The centre has shifted its practices amid the pandemic and is working with the Northwestern Health Unit to ensure staff and clients are kept safe.
"We had the Northwestern Health Unit come in and screen people at the door with a new assessment tool and requiring people to use hand sanitizer, and in about 40 minutes there were about 45 people that came through the door," said Yvonne Bearbull, the centre's executive director, in an interview with CBC.
She added that in light of the pandemic, centre staff are making an effort to screen people entering the facility every morning and are keeping an eye on the health conditions of their clients.
'Really thankful' for community help
Earlier this week Bearbull said there were concerns their hand sanitizer supply might not last through the week, but after asking the community for help, the supply has been replenished.
"There's a local company called Lake of the Woods Soap. They have brought us a bunch of alcohol based hand sanitizer and it says thank you to our frontline responders, so they have been providing this hand sanitizer to other organizations in the area," she said.
"We're really thankful that they brought that in. And then just in general people are coming and dropping off half empty bottles of hand sanitizer, so we're okay for now."
Bearbull added that food donations and the overall support and encouragement from the community has been really helpful in recent weeks.
Further isolation causing 'fear, desperation'
Staff at the centre are trying to provide more services in light of closures of non-essential businesses, such as libraries, which many people use to access the internet.
"We hope to have Facebook and Messenger for people to stay in touch with people, families or friends, know that they're okay...that's very important right now where a lot of people are feeling really isolated and we see the fear in people's faces and desperation," said Bearbull.
She said the centre is continuing to monitor the impact of COVID-19, but for now staff plans to keep the centre open to avoid creating more hardships for the people they serve.
"There're a lot of people with pre-existing conditions because they've been homeless… so that now makes things more difficult for them. We thought of reducing our hours but we know that will cause more hardship and we're really trying to monitor our own operation and how we're able to manage and if we have to scale back on certain things then I guess that's something that we're going to have to do."