COVID-19 and Running an Emergency Shelter: A New Normal for Everyone

Centre of Hope Calgary
by Alberta

The worldwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to change many things about our daily life; how we work, where we go, who we see. Every day there are new recommendations and requirements in order to flatten the curve to keep it from spreading and to keep people safe. The Salvation Army has also been led to do the same for the thousands of people that call their emergency shelters and other residences home.

At the Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope (COH) in Calgary, one resident had tested positive for COVID-19 and moved to isolation facilities in accordance with Alberta Health Services’ safety measures. Meanwhile, all staff and residents have been tested as part of the protocols in place, and to date they were all negative. A situation that could have been disastrous, has been contained. Safety measures and protocols are strictly enforced, and this includes maintaining the 2-metre distance in dorms and the dining hall and having food and beverages pre-plated in single-servings. Sanitization takes place three times a day and a mobile hand washing station has been installed right at the front door.

“We are trying really hard to maintain the dignity of our programs and clients while still mitigating the risks of COVID-19,” says Karen Livick, Executive Director of Community Services Calgary. This means going virtual for some programs, closing some, and restricting visitors. The Barbara Mitchell Family Resource Centre (FRC) has had to close to clients as most of the programs were designed for visitors. Those attending the live-in addictions and recovery program at COH no longer can have visitors, which means family and friends can’t attend program graduation ceremonies.

Although very difficult at times, being adaptable is key for everyone right now, and that includes in how programs and socializing are carried out.

“What we’ve started doing is re-introducing some evening activities – we show movies multiple times a week instead of once to ensure everyone gets the chance to watch,” says Livick, as they keep these activities to less than 15 people with physical distancing . “We’ll also set up appointments for the women in our women’s residential program to use the computer room for job searches…and our ESL and Job Advance program are online, and the kids’ program are going online in the next few weeks.” Also, the Women’s Foundation program is going online in May.

She also mentions that “we’ve seen a lot of clients want to help us out in the shelter, even help us clean. We don’t have a lot of volunteers right now, but some board members have even offered to deliver hampers – and we’ve had many offers of food from restaurants.”

It’s these acts of kindness and understanding that really show we’re in this together, and together we can conquer COVID-19.