May 22nd, 2024

Shelter outbreak has some homeless fearful

By Lethbridge Herald on December 16, 2020.

Lenora Scout sits with a group of other people taking shelter alongside a wall at Galt Gardens Wednesday afternoon, as members of Lethbridge's homeless community react to concerns over an outbreak at the city's homeless shelter. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
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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pursuit diver

As someone who owned a business downtown for many years and saw it go from lucrative to almost bankruptcy in the last couple of years, I cannot understand, with all the social services available, why people are on the streets at all.
There is AISH for those will mental health and other conditions that many live on, in their own places. There are other social services through the Alberta Government.
The soup kitchen provides 3 meals per day well made and besides the Sage Clan, who should be applauded, there are other groups that often drive around and hand out food, one from a Christian church and we have 2 food banks.
We should have addressed this problem years ago and addressed the reasons why people decide to live in shelters. Many are addicts!
The biggest issue many of the homeless are not practising any of the COVID restrictions put in place and many scoff at COVID, while they mingle with the public going about their business downtown, not taking note that the person in that washroom they just entered, for example, has COVID, was just sneezing in the bathroom and COVID is all through the air in that bathroom.
As a business owner I am tired of seeing ‘presents’ left in my doorway and customers who will no longer come do my business because of this mess!
There is no reason, with all of the social supports in place in this province, anyone needs to be living in a shelter! None!
Who is monitoring the ones that are quarantined? In the spring, many who were supposed to be in quarantine were out in the community operating as they normally due, even committing crimes!