N.B. shelters adjust to physical distancing
MONCTON -- Shelters in New Brunswick remain busy during the COVID-19 pandemic, but need to make adjustments to adhere to physical distancing restrictions.
On Saturday, New Brunswick announced six new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total of number of cases in the province to 51.
While the provincial state of emergency in N.B. has shut down many businesses, essential services like shelters are now trying to navigate through uncharted territory.
“You can’t really isolate as much as you’d like,” says Cal Maskery, founder of Moncton’s Harvest House Atlantic. “We’re trying to honour that six-feet physical distancing right now, but it’s hard to do when you have narrow hallways and things like that.
The homeless are especially vulnerable, as they often gather in close quarters in shelters, and are now being forced to distance themselves from one another.
“One time the director said, you know, people are in line-up for the meals and stuff, and he said we need to apply more distancing between each other,” says Mike Babineau.
The goal now is to find a way to keep everyone safe, while sleeping side-by-side in a shared space.
“Our bed numbers are a little lower because we had to space them out a little further, so we’re trying to have head-to-foot instead of having people all sleep the same way,” explains Maskery
Growing concern for the less fortunate, as vulnerable population often live close quarters.
Shelter staff are also now implementing new rules to limit the hours spent away from the shelter.
“Unfortunately those who are leaving at nights will not be able to come back to the shelter at the moment,” says Steve MacDonald, a staff member at the House of Nazareth shelter in Moncton.
The director of the House of Nazareth shelter says they have created an ‘isolation space’ inside the shelter as a preparation.
Going to the store to pick-up essentials during the pandemic is one-stop shopping for many. But for the less fortunate, items like hand sanitizer or face masks are luxury items that are out of reach.
“Not everybody has the money and that is the unfortunate thing,” says Matthew Girvan.
Some businesses are doing what they can by donating hand sanitizer, and the province has donated 60 cases of water to Harvest House Atlantic.