Toronto opens second recovery site for homeless COVID-19 patients

The downtown site will accommodate 250 people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive. The city is also distributing PPE to the shelter system this week


Toronto is opening a second recovery site for people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive for COVID-19, and distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) to the shelter system.

The new site will open on Friday has a capacity of 250. It will be located downtown and operated in partnership with the University Health Network (UHN), Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) and community health partners.

A news release notes that the site is not a hospital, because it does not offer acute care, or a shelter, because the infection control measures in place are similar to a health-care setting.

The first recovery site opened last month and has a capacity of 200.

“It is critical to our response that people who are homeless and who are ill with COVID-19 have a safe space to recover outside of the shelter system to prevent the spread of infection,” the city said in a statement. “For those who don’t require hospitalization, the recovery program provides a place for the city’s most vulnerable to recover in a dignified way, without placing additional pressures on the hospital acute care system.”

The program, which is funded by the province, offers clients hotel rooms and provides them with medical care, nursing, substance use care, mental health and overdose prevention services.Individuals are referred to the recovery program through an ICHA physician. Once a client has recovered, they will be offered a referral to a hotel-based shelter program or housing, the city said.

Additionally, the city has received a supply of PPE for shelter workers, which will be distributed this week.

“While current public health guidelines don’t require the universal use of PPE, such as masks, in shelter locations where there is not an active outbreak, directly providing PPE supplies to all shelter locations will ensure there is enhanced and consistent approach to protect both staff and vulnerable clients across the shelter system,” the city said.

The city has faced criticism from activists, as long-term care homes and congregate settings such has homeless shelters have been hit hard by the pandemic.

On April 25, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and a coalition of advocacy groups hit Toronto with a legal action over the state of the shelter system during the coronavirus pandemic. The groups argue the state of city shelter standards and 24-hour respite centres violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, Toronto is temporarily housing people sleeping in outdoor encampments in two vacant mid-rise apartment buildings in midtown. The 125 furnished units are in buildings that will eventually be demolished as part of a redevelopment. 

@KevinRitchie

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