By Lethbridge Herald on December 16, 2020.
Despite increasing cold, a lot of Lethbridge’s homeless community are opting to remain outside through the night as fear continues to grow after a recent COVID-19 outbreak at the Alpha House-run Lethbridge Homeless Shelter.
According to sources in the local homeless community, over 30 people are in quarantine as a result of the Alpha House outbreak and fear of disease is becoming widespread.
Alberta Health said it was notified of 27 cases linked to the Alpha House outbreak. Of these, 17 are active and 10 recovered. The outbreak was declared on Nov. 26.
“My concern is I am homeless,” explains 53-year-old grandmother Lenora Scout, “and I went to the homeless shelter, and there are signs everywhere about the COVID outbreak. They have had a few cases; so there are a lot of us who don’t want to sleep there. We’re scared because we don’t want to get it. One cough, one sneeze, you’re gone. You’ll get it.
“They have those who are sick in a separate building, and the ones who aren’t sick are in the regular shelter. Still, I have nine grandchildren and four children in Lethbridge. Even if you are over a metre from one another, and that person coughs or sneezes, you can get it.”
Scout says many are choosing to stay outside as much as they can, but she does not have that option as she does not have a good coat, and she can’t walk around all night to stay warm as many are doing.
“With friends, we just sit together with blankets to keep ourselves warm,” Scout says. “For myself, I do go back to the shelter every night to sleep for a couple of hours, and then I leave again. I don’t stay there that long. I will sleep with my facemask on, but I have mental health issues, PTSD and hypertension, so I get scared to wear that mask for so long. I start panicking, and I can’t breathe. That’s just a whole new thing right now.”
“I will just keep praying,” she responds when asked what she can do. “That’s all we can do right now; because it is scary.”
Leo Twig also has been on the streets for awhile now. It’s hard enough already, he says, but COVID-19 has added a whole other dimension of fear to the experience.
“It is scary, man,” he says. “It might get ya. I don’t even know if my body would be able to fight it.”
Twig says for others in the city Christmas is happy time of year, but for him and others on the street, particularly with this COVID outbreak, happiness and joy are in short supply for the moment.
“No, hell no,” he says when asked if it feels like Christmas for him. “It just feels like another day. Another ugly day.”
Kindness to Others Renewal and Healing Centre founder and Bringing the Spirit Home outreach worker, Alvin Mills, says he hasn’t seen the streets this hard in awhile. And now with this COVID-19 outbreak at the local homeless shelter, he hopes there are people in Lethbridge and the Blood Tribe who can provide more resources to help.
“A lot of the support agencies are shut down,” says Mills. “It is just my organization and Sage Clan that are out here daily. We are doing a lot of street-level intervention. If we can just help feed the people; there is a real demand for food. They are outside in the cold and their bodies are burning more calories. So bringing some hot coffee, a sandwich would help, or even a kind word would help.”
“We are at the worst with what the at risk and vulnerable population are going through,” he states. “We have heard over 30 people were sent away from Alpha House to other locations to quarantine. I have heard 10 are in another area of Alpha House to try to keep them isolated. And then you have a lot of people that are sleeping outside.”
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