Workers needed urgently to staff centre for COVID-positive homeless population

Men and women with experience as intervention workers with the homeless population are urgently needed to “put up their hands” to work with homeless people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the president and CEO of the Old Brewery Mission, James Hughes, said Sunday night.

The Omicron variant is now in the shelter system, he said, and the downtown Montreal facility currently used to isolate homeless people who are positive for COVID-19, the Chrome Hotel, is full; as a result, people with COVID are being kept at shelters together with people who do not have COVID, he said.

Nearly 500 homeless people have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the year and the sector is affected by a lack of space and a lack of staff. The Old Brewery Mission is managing the Chrome, which was requisitioned by the city of Montreal on Dec. 30.

“For the past four or five days, we have been setting up red zones within the facilities, which are all supposed to be green,” Hughes said. Homeless men who have tested positive for COVID-19, for instance, are being kept at the Webster pavilion of the Old Brewery Mission on Clark St.

“Because of how vulnerable homeless people are, we need to get them out.”

Homeless people are much more likely than the general population to be hospitalized with COVID-19, to need intensive care and even to die, he explained. “We really need to protect them as much as possible.”

“We are looking for people with a modicum of experience in intervention — people who have some experience in mental health, some experience in addictions work and direct experience with the homeless population,” Hughes said. “We are looking for a dozen or more workers to help us with the Chrome. If we have more staff, we can keep it at its maximum capacity.”

Current capacity is 125, he said; with 25 more workers, capacity could be increased to 150.

In addition, the isolation facility previously used, l’Abri du voyageur, is being prepared, and staff is needed for that, too. That would add 50 beds to the system — “and there is talk about adding even another.”

“The peak of this fifth wave is not anticipated for another few weeks,” Hughes said. “We are going to be in this for another five, six or seven weeks. The danger is right in front of us. It is really critical.”

Interested workers can email ressourceshumaines@missionoldbrewery.ca  or call the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’île-de-Montréal at 514-940-5216.

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