Peel implements prevention measures in Mississauga shelter system amid COVID-19 outbreak

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The Region of Peel has implemented prevention measures in the shelter system and is collaborating with community partners to create isolation and recovery programs amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

In order to protect the community's most vulnerable population, the Region of Peel will be implementing a variety of programs and protocols that will aim to prevent and help to manage the spread of COVID-19 in Peel's homeless shelters, transitional housing and street outreach program.

These prevention protocols include screening and testing, personal protection equipment for front line workers, enhanced cleaning of facilities, health protection (physical distancing) signage and posters, and use of hotels to reduce shelter occupancy and ensure appropriate physical distancing. 

Currently, almost half of Peel's shelter population is in hotels. 

"The Region of Peel places great importance on the health and safety of residents, making it critical that we protect Peel's most vulnerable residents in our homeless shelters from the spread of COVID-19," said Nando Iannicca, Chair, Region of Peel.

"Individuals experiencing homelessness have difficulty connecting with the health care system, and as a result, Peel's comprehensive COVID-19 prevention and response program is designed to protect residents and frontline workers in our shelters and street outreach program, as well as reduce the impact to hospitals in Peel."

In March 2020, an isolation program was established and a recovery program in mid-April, which are both focused on providing primary care to homeless individuals who may not be connected to the health care system, as well as reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the community.

While the isolation program has the capacity to shelter up to 100 households who are homeless, unable to self-isolate, those who have risk factors for exposure or those that have been tested for COVID-19, the recovery program supports homeless individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and provides medical and social supports with the capacity to support 40 individuals.

Roughly 4% of shelter residents are currently in isolation or recovery.

The isolation and recovery programs were developed by a collaborative intersectoral partnership of medical, public health, mental health, community care and social service experts, including a health team of a medical doctor, Dr. Naheed Dosani, a nurse health practitioner, Clinton Baretto, and Peel Public Health, Canadian Mental Health Association Peel-Dufferin (CMHA), Central-West Local Health Integration Network, Mississauga Halton Local Health Integration Network, Regeneration Outreach Community Housing (nursing supports), Services and Housing in the Province (SHIP), The Salvation Army and Region of Peel Housing Services, facility management and Peel Housing Corporation supports.

“I feel very grateful to be working within an initiative that has highlighted the importance of preventing the spread of COVID-19 by expanding shelter system capacity as a response to support safe physical distancing," said Dr. Naheed Dosani, Medical Director of the Region of Peel's COVID-19 Homeless Response. 

"Further, the use of scaled-up, mobile and on-site testing has had a very positive impact. Most importantly, I value the way this program is being run because of the focus on the provision of housing for all when this pandemic is over.”

Other key partners include Peel Regional Paramedic Services, who are providing testing and health checks at the isolation site and TransHelp, which is providing transportation of individuals in the shelter system suspected or confirmed of having COVID-19.

Region of Peel Housing Services and partners continue to focus on helping shelter residents find long-term housing both during and after isolation or recovery.

Peel's COVID-19 shelter prevention and response programs are being funded by the federal, provincial and regional levels of government and the Region has been notified of receiving additional provincial and federal supports through the Reaching Home Emergency Funding and Social Services Relief Fund.

These supports are being provided to help communities enhance their COVID-19 response capacity to provide essential services during the pandemic, secure accommodation to reduce shelter overcrowding, isolate and quarantine individuals awaiting test results or who are confirmed positive and to help purchase supplies and materials to reduce the risk of transmission. 

For more information, visit www.peelregion.ca/housing or peelregion.ca.

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