Windsor's COVID-19 isolation centre full, forcing homeless shelter to scramble amid large outbreak
The Downtown Mission is looking for isolation space for six people
With the City of Windsor's Isolation and Recovery Centre full, a significant COVID-19 outbreak at one of Windsor's largest homeless shelters has left the organization scrambling to find more space for those who have tested positive.
As of Tuesday, 46 guests of the homeless shelter have tested positive along with 19 staff and volunteers, according to the organization's executive director Ron Dunn. A majority of the guests that have tested positive are staying at the isolation and recovery centre run by the City of Windsor and the Welcome Centre for Women, but six others are in need of a place to stay.
Dunn said it is working to accommodate these people, but there's no clear plan yet.
In an emailed statement, City of Windsor administration neither confirmed nor denied that the Isolation and Recovery Centre was full but said capacity at the space "changes frequently based on needs and test results, with intake and discharges occurring continuously."
There is another Isolation and Recovery Centre in the city, but that one has been reserved for migrant farm workers that is run by the Red Cross.
Following the Mission's outbreak, Dunn decided Monday to move his team and guests to Windsor Public Library's former Central Branch location at 850 Ouellette Ave. E.
The current Mission locations at 664 Victoria Ave. and 875 Ouellette Ave. will be closed temporarily, Dunn said.
The Mission declared the outbreak on Thursday, when 17 staff, volunteers and guests had tested positive.
WATCH: Ron Dunn talks about the situation at the Mission.
Though the mission is only now moving locations, Dunn said the organization had a lease on the central library location since January, but decided it would have been too costly and challenging to amalgamate the two spaces into one.
Instead, the Mission was using the space as a storage unit.
Now, in the middle of a crisis, Dunn said they will be at the location for the "foreseeable future" as it allows them more space to physically distance.
Though there was a plan in place should the shelter go into outbreak, Dunn said it's played out very differently in reality.
"I think that when you put something down on paper it's great, but practicality of implementing those things is always difficult," he said.
As for who is taking on the cost of operating the library as a shelter, Dunn said he's talking that out with the city.
And though they're now under pressure to get things settled, he says he doesn't think there's anything the Mission or the city could have done differently.
"I think I don't know that there's a right or a wrong way in this but other cities have just rented hotels for everybody," he said.
"You know when there's a shelter in place order or a stay at home order and you don't have a home, what do you do? Right? So I mean we've had these discussions but honestly I think as many times I've been at odds with the city in recent history I would say, they did everything they could possibly do. This is new for everybody."
The hardest part now, Dunn said, is to ensure they have enough staff to operate as he's down to one person on a midnight shift and two cooks.