The Sunday Magazine

Supporters of Ottawa's homeless strain to accommodate new reality of COVID-19

Tens of thousands of people across Canada simply can't follow the edict to stay at home during the coronavirus outbreak because they don't have one. In Ottawa, people who serve the homeless and the street-addict community have been scrambling to find ways to keep people safe. Here is Alisa Siegel's documentary Taking Care of All of Us.

In a community where crisis is a constant, these have been weeks of frantic effort and huge conundrums

An Ottawa Inner City Health staff member walks past a pile of linens in the gym of a community centre. This location will serve as a COVID-19 isolation centre for vulnerable residents. (David Kawai/Canadian Press)

Across the country, there are tens of thousands of people who simply can't follow the edict to stay at home. They don't have a home. And for them, these are uniquely treacherous times.

In Ottawa, people who serve the homeless and the street-addict community have been scrambling to find ways to keep people safe. Food banks, shelters and safe injection sites are straining to accommodate the new reality. 

A COVID-19 testing van now roams the streets. A special shelter for those who test positive is up and running, along with a holding centre for those awaiting results. But the challenges are enormous. As if they weren't already.

Wendy Muckle, co-founder and Executive Director of Ottawa Inner City Health. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

Wendy Muckle has been working with the homeless community for more than 30 years. She's the co-founder and Executive Director of Ottawa Inner City Health. She has seen this community struggle through AIDS, tuberculosis, SARS, H1N1 — and for the last several years — opioids.

For her and the people she works with and serves, these have been weeks of frantic effort and huge conundrums, of crisis management in a community where crisis is a constant.

Here is Alisa Siegel's documentary Taking Care of All of Us.

Click 'listen' above to hear the documentary.

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