A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Samaritan House Ministries’ Safe and Warm Shelter.
The province announced the outbreak on Saturday, during which they classified the space level red on the Pandemic Response System.
The building, at 820 Pacific Ave. in Brandon, has been closed until it can be safely reopened.
"We are working under the advice of public health officials and in partnership with local agencies and services to ensure that staff, clients and the public are safe," said executive director Barbara McNish.
Due to confidentiality issues, she was unable to share how many people have been infected, but said those required to self-isolate have been doing so.
"We are working with public health to ensure we can reopen safely," she said, adding that both the shelter and food hamper area have been affected.
The food hamper effort will be operating out of their parking lot from 12 to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday beginning Monday. Those who missed their hamper appointment last week due to it shutting down Thursday can pick up their hamper this week.
The Home Nutritions Program, which provides kids with breakfast, has been put on hold, and McNish said they’re currently "working on options."
As for the shelter itself, McNish said it’s her understanding that nobody will be left out in the cold.
"We’re working with public health very closely and following their recommendations," she said. "We’re doing the best we can working with everybody and trying to maintain staff safety, client safety and community safety."
Staff will be available at the location every evening from 6:30 to 8 p.m. to provide information and support for clients who require it.
Samaritan House Ministries has been taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 since the pandemic started.
In early March, outgoing executive director John Jackson said they were already thinking about physically distancing people and limiting contacts alongside "vigilant" cleanliness.
During a media briefing in Ottawa later that month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly commended the shelter’s efforts.
At the time, shelter team lead Heather Bolech said they were "building a moat around our vulnerable people."
In the months that followed, they reduced their shelter bed capacity from 25 to 17 in order to better space people out and undertook various other measures in an effort to keep people safe.
They’re hosting an ongoing fundraiser, for which donations are accepted online at samaritanhouse.net, to safely increase their capacity and further improve shelter conditions.
McNish said she is thankful for public health and the community’s support throughout these trying times, and that their social media pages will continue to be updated with the latest information.
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