Vernon, BC— On March 26, 2020, Mike Farnworth, British Columbia’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General announced sweeping changes to centralize the province’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
These critical steps were made based on the direction of the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Under the Emergency Program Act, the minister issued a series of ministerial orders to ensure a coordinated response to COVID-19 across all levels of government for the duration of the provincial emergency.
Of the orders, municipalities were asked to identify public spaces that could potentially be used in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, if necessary.
Recognizing the potential need for such facilities, Turning Points Collaborative Society, BC Housing, Interior Health and the City of Vernon entered into discussions to identify possible sites that would be suitable to combine the Our Place and Gateway Shelter sites under one roof.
Through these discussions, the Vernon Curling Rink was identified as a potential site due to its size, available amenities and proximity to essential services.
“The amalgamation of these two sites into a larger facility allows for far greater physical distancing for both clients and staff,” explained Turning Points Collaborative Society Executive Director, Randene Wejr. “This aligns with the provincial health officer’s recommendation around increased physical distancing.”
- Our Place and Gateway Shelters have been combined into one site at the Vernon Curling Club
- 70 beds have each been sectioned off into a 10×10 area to maximize physical distancing.
- In conjunction with increased sanitization and portable hand washing stations, staff have been equipped with all necessary PPE, including masks, and scrubs.
- The additional space allows clients to sit further apart during meal times, again increasing physical distancing.
- The site will also allow for in-house meals, plus increased laundry and shower capabilities, reducing the potential risk of virus transmission.
- Combining the shelter sites into one large area also allows for more staff to be on shift; ensuring we have a good complement of staff, should a staff member call in sick or if they have been advised by their physician to self-isolate.
- Having one large space also reduces the necessity for staff to travel from site to site, reducing the risk of virus transmission.
“This plan is designed to keep the virus from being transmitted from employee to resident, employee to employee and from resident to employee,” explained Wejr. “This is designed to keep all of us safe and healthy.”
People experiencing homelessness and other marginalized and vulnerable populations have higher rates of health concerns and may be at greater risk if exposed to the virus.
These critical actions align with the provincial health officer’s best preventive practice recommendations and are designed to not only protect the health and safety of our most vulnerable, but also the community’s health and safety too.
For more information on the BC Government’s announcement on new spaces secured for vulnerable people to self-isolate, click here.