A large number of people call Pandora Avenue home, even during a pandemic as seen on March 23. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

How Greater Victoria’s non-profit sector is handling the pandemic

Organizations shift programs to phone, online

For people who have a steady job, a roof over their head and enough money to buy food for their family, the pandemic has been a scary shift for everyday life. But for those who don’t have a roof, money or a job — the pandemic has been catastrophic, according to local charities.

“COVID-19 hasn’t hit this population yet,” says Grant McKenzie, director of communications for Our Place Society. “But we know that when it does hit, it will hit extremely hard.”

The staff at Our Place Society continue to serve 1,400 meals per day, provide paramedic services, hand out blankets, tents and hygiene supplies, along with providing access to washrooms, running three shelters and conducting constant wellness checks. With The Harbour, a safe-injection site next door, one of McKenzie’s biggest concerns is when it comes to people overdosing.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Messages of support and positivity pop up around Greater Victoria

Those who run Our Place have been told by Island Health, they cannot give mouth to mouth to people who may need it in order to limit the spread, along with not being able to give oxygen to people because that can flood a person’s system with the virus, says McKenzie.

Adding to the list of worries, March 25 is when social assistance cheques are handed out – a day that traditionally sees a significant spike in overdoses.

“We know we can give them Narcan, but every overdose has a big impact on peoples brain cells and without adding oxygen it’s going to lead to further mental health challenges,” he says.

McKenzie says the population Our Place serves is more concerned with day to day life than the virus, but he anticipates that once it hits Pandora Avenue, the results will be “deadly.”

Women In Need

Mabel Marin, WIN’s marketing and communication coordinator, the biggest fear for the women they serve is the added anxiety and fear on top of having to deal with finding a safe place to live or any other resource. Because the WIN thrift store has had to close, the organization — which uses the revenue from the shop to fund their programs — is suffering.

Marin says the organization has had to rethink many aspects of its programs, especially with delivering furniture to women who have just left or are currently living in transition houses.

To help the women and people they serve, WIN is creating a COVID-19 resource guide – a comprehensive list of all the services offered to people in the area who need help due to the impact of the pandemic. WIN is asking any agency or organization to contact them if they want to be included in the guide.

READ ALSO: Beacon Hill, Topaz, Royal Athletic parks to open as temporary sites for the homeless

In addition to the resource guide, WIN has been working “nonstop” to create an online store that will hopefully replace most of the revenue lost from having to close the brick and mortar store.

Any woman who is in need of help is asked to contact WIN’s program coordinator at programs@womeninneed.ca.

Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria

Moving to a new country is isolating enough without having the added worries of a pandemic, which is why Jean McRae, CEO of the ICA, says her biggest concern is the social disconnect for newcomers.

She says the ICA has been collecting resources that help share COVID-19 news in many different languages to help immigrants understand the state of the virus.

“When people first arrive, they haven’t built a social circle and they don’t necessarily know how to reach out and now they’re being advised not to,” says McRae. “When we take away the opportunity for social connection … that’s the kind of thing we’re worried about.”

To combat the social disconnect, the ICA has been conducting an above normal outreach service where they will phone or email people that access their services just to make sure they’re doing alright.

All three of these organizations expressed the need for monetary donations to be able to continue serving the most vulnerable people within Greater Victoria.

To donate to Our Place Society visit ourplacesociety.com.

To donate to WIN — or to view their online store — visit womeninneed.ca.

To donate to the ICA visit icavictoria.org.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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