Outbreak at Moncton shelter exposes COVID-19 challenges among homeless population
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges for the homeless population in Moncton as they often do not have the ability to self-isolate or get vaccinated.
A recent outbreak at the Harvest House has shown just how quickly the virus can spread among those who don’t have a place to call home.
The emergency shelter has seen 31 cases of the disease since last week causing it to temporarily close.
“This is a demographic that's used to moving around, so to ask them to stay in one place is difficult," says Marc Belliveau, executive director of Harvest House.
"Within our shelter itself, we have a professional company come in that's disinfecting our location. Remember we have 13 other buildings so right now we’re still taking care of all of our residents in our other buildings."
Belliveau says they serve 109 people every night on average.
In an effort to help prevent further spread, they had a pop-up vaccine clinic on site Friday to help make vaccinations more accessible for people, as rates have been low at the facility.
Jeremy Cormier was previously staying at the shelter.
"The experience has been both awful and amazing. I’ve met people that would really surprise you when you’re down and out," says Cormier.
Though he’s fully vaccinated, not having a permanent address makes it difficult for people like Cormier to hold onto certificates.
Debby Warren, executive director of Ensemble Moncton, a harm reduction site, says that their location serves over 1,000 individuals in the community and a high percentage of those are homeless.
"Even if we found them a place to self-isolate, to get over the 14 days and recover, who is going to be that support for them?" she asks.
"I do think the shelters have been doing the best they can. Of course, when you're managing folks for the whole day, there is a higher risk of transmission within that setting," says Cathy Foote, a housing specialist.
With rental costs and COVID-19 cases on the rise, having a safe place to call their own is yet another hurdle.
The Harvest House's executive director says those previously staying at the emergency shelter are now being offered support at the lion's club until it is safe for them to return.