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Coronavirus

Surrey shelters, service providers reworking programs amid COVID-19 pandemic

Surrey Urban Mission has moved to a full-time shelter, NightShift implements social distancing for outreach

Two Surrey service providers have had to change their models during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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MaryAnne Connor, founder and president of NightShift Street Ministries, said the organization has “absolutely” had to make changes during this pandemic.

She said NightShift’s outreach services have been “scaled down substantially.” Volunteers are no longer serving meals from the parking lot, but from inside NightShift’s door. That decision was made Tuesday (March 17).

“They’re still getting a meal, because we certainly don’t want to stop that, but we’re not mingling with people,” said Connor, adding that volunteers are “respecting social distancing.”

“The Surrey community was very respectful and understanding, and were OK with us keeping the distance.”

While the meal service has been modified, Connor said NightShift has also had to cancel several events, including volunteer training and a sit-down Easter dinner.

However, there are also financial implications.

Connor said they’ve had to move their “biggest fundraiser of the year” to Aug. 16 from May 26. NightShift has also had to purchase utensils and paper bags for the bagged lunches.

“Financially that effects us as well, and who knows what’s next.”

For those wishing to donate to NightShift, they can contact info@nightshiftministries.org.

Surrey Urban Mission Society’s goal during the COVID-19 outbreak is to continue “to support the most vulnerable,” but SUMS executive director Mike Musgrove said it’s also changed how it operates by switching to a full-time shelter at its King George and 108th Avenue location.

“We used to run a shelter that we would send people out in the morning and then they’d come back at night,” said Musgrove. “It’s now moved to 24-7, (with) 46 beds and in order to do that we had to change our meal services, which actually kind of doubled in the whole response program.”

Musgrove said that “at any given time” there is still about 100 people around, but they’ve been serving about 150 people for meals through a by-registration breakfast and lunch program.

“We don’t want people gathering any longer in groups, and we have a hundred people coming for lunch every day,” said Musgrove, adding that people are coming to the SUMS service window to pick up bagged meals now. “This is all very temporary. We want this to be a community society once again but right now we’ve moved to a registration program.”

While Surrey Urban Mission is still getting donations, Musgrove said those have decreased.

“So in response to that, we just felt like we needed come up with a plan, one that keeps our guests safe, and two, that actually works toward reducing the taxation on our food supply,” he said.

“That’s to serve the most needy. We’re really working to have to watch our food supply.”

As for its other services, Musgrove said SUM has suspended its daytime drop-in services, and are just “dealing with the critical cases.”

“It’s a tough balance,” he said. “We’re, in fact, working on our third edition of our pandemic response plan, but it’s been amazing. We’re getting help from other groups. It’s a time for sharing and working together and co-operating.”

SUMS is still looking for donations for clothing and food, people can contact sums@telus.net.

Jonquil Hallgate, who is the co-chair of the Surrey Homeless and Housing Task Force, said that to the best of her knowledge, she hasn’t heard of anybody testing “positive or even showing symptoms.”

“Thus far, we’ve been fortunate, and knock on wood, that it hasn’t effected anybody in our community, but plans are being made by the health authorities and BC Housing and the city to step in and have response in place if it’s needed.”

Hallgate said with new information and resources being made available, “a lot of people are still receiving the services that they are in need of, but not necessarily in the same way they were before.”

Hallgate said people can contact the task force, at surreyhomelesshousingtaskforce@gmail.com, in co-ordinating how to provide help for any of the service providers.

As for the extreme weather response shelters, Hallgate, who is also the co-ordinator of the EWR shelters, said the locations will be closing Thursday morning after been opening since Feb. 29 due to the cold weather.

Hallgate said that during this pandemic, all of the shelters have different protocols in place while also trying to practice the best health and safety “as much as you can when you have enclosed spaces and lots of people.”

Asked how the homeless population is reacting to the ever-changing news, Connor said she hasn’t yet heard anything from them.

“It’s hard to get any feedback, but I know people that come here to our outreach dinner, I know the impact it has to that sense of community. I know why they come and it’s not only just about food. They’re frightened too. When you think about it, how will people on the street, if they come down with this virus or come in contact with someone, how are they going to self-isolate?”

For the latest on COVID-19 and coronavirus, visit surreynowleader.com/tag/coronavirus.



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

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