The Vernon Curling Club has been converted into a makeshift shelter to house residents of the Gateway and Our Place shelters to ensure proper social distancing amid COVID-19. (Turning Points Collaborative Society)

COVID-19: Vernon homeless shelters combine in curling club

Gateway and Our Place shelter sites housed under one roof amid pandemic

The Vernon Curling Club has been transformed to house all guests of both Our Place and Gateway Shelter sites together under one roof to provide more space for physical distancing.

The Public Safety Minister called for a provincewide response to COVID-19 on March 26, as directed by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. Under the Emergency Program Act, the minister issued ministerial orders, one of which asked municipalities to identify public spaces that could be used, if necessary.

Recognizing a potential need, Turning Points Collaborative Society, BC Housing, Interior Health and the City of Vernon identified the curling rink as good site to amalgamate the two sites 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,” Turning Points Collaborative Society executive director Randene Wejr said.

“This aligns with the provincial health officer’s recommendation around increased physical distancing.”

The curling club now houses 70 beds, each sectioned off into a 10-by-10 area to maximize distancing. Additional sanitization and portable hand-washing stations have been added to the facility and all staff have been equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment, including masks and scrubs.

The site allows for in-house meals, with additional space for clients to sit further apart during meal times, plus increased laundry and shower capabilities, reducing the potential risk of virus transmission.

The larger site also allows for more staff to be on shift, while reducing the need for staff to travel from site to site.

“This plan is designed to keep the virus from being transmitted from employee to resident, employee to employee and from resident to employee,” Wejr said. “This is designed to keep all of us safe and healthy.”

Individuals experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable populations have higher rates of health concerns and may be at greater risk if exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

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Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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