The Old Brewery Mission and its partners, the Welcome Hall Mission, Maison du Père and Accueil Bonneau, who make up Montreal’s main homeless-serving organizations – are reporting increasing numbers of homeless people and frontline workers testing positive for COVID-19. In the homeless population alone, there have been 96 new cases since the holiday season, compared with 21 cases in the previous 10 months (March to December).
Protecting Vulnerable Montrealers
The COVID-19 vaccine is currently available to staff in hospital units, including the employees from homelessness organizations working at the former Royal Victoria Hospital, but the four organizations are calling on the Quebec government to give priority to all homelessness workers and to the homeless people they assist.
“Vaccination is the first line of defence against a pandemic,” says Fiona Crossling, Executive Director of Accueil Bonneau. “Our staff are doing their best to keep everyone safe, but we’re under tremendous pressure.”
“To reduce the risk of a serious outbreak among frontline workers and homeless people in Montreal, these target groups need to be immunized against COVID-19 now,” says François Boissy, CEO of Maison du Père.
“The number of spaces available in our services and warming centres is not enough to meet the demand created by the pandemic,” says James Hughes, President and CEO of the Old Brewery Mission. “Once all staff have been vaccinated, our centres will be able to quickly increase their capacity to accommodate the homeless people who need a safe place to spend the night.”
Sam Watts, CEO and Executive Director of Welcome Hall Mission, agrees: “Our employees have been working with very vulnerable clients since the beginning of the pandemic. Giving them priority for the vaccine would recognize their contribution and protect them and our clients from the risk of complications.”
Homeless people are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 because:
- Physical distancing is a constant challenge. Despite the required reduction in the number of people at some facilities, clients still find themselves in close proximity.
- Our clients are at extreme risk of illness and death because many have complex health issues, in addition to the risks associated with homelessness.
- People who are homeless tend not to seek help until they are seriously ill.
Together, the four non-profit organizations provide vital services to more than 3,000 homeless men and women, including psychosocial support, assistance in finding permanent housing, and ongoing help to reintegrate into the community.