Housing organizations

Housing agencies require staff to be vaccinated to protect vulnerable clients

Starting October 28, vaccination will be mandatory for all staff and volunteers of Our Place Society

With healthcare workers in British Columbia now required to be fully immunized, organizations that run temporary housing and shelters not covered by the mandate are implementing their own vaccine requirements.

Starting Thursday, vaccination will be mandatory for all staff and volunteers of Our Place Society. Cool Aid is implementing the same rule for all of its staff, volunteers and contractors, which goes into effect on November 1.

The province’s vaccination mandate for healthcare workers, which went into effect Tuesday, affects workers in homes funded by Island Health. Since Cool Aid has housing funded by the health authority and others funded by other means, the organization decided to institute its own coherence mandate, said CEO Kathy Stinson.

“There’s a lot of crossovers, you know, our management staff, our maintenance staff, our catering staff, our IT, they go to all of our sites, so… the sites funded by Island Health and others. funded sites. So operationally it made sense for us to make this an organization-wide policy, ”she said.

Grant McKenzie, communications director for Our Place, said the organization believes that requiring staff and volunteers to be immunized is the best way to protect the vulnerable people they serve, as well as those who work. and volunteer.

However, the rule will not apply to people who use their supports, as Our Place provides essential services such as food and showers, McKenzie said.

“We cannot block people entering, even if they are COVID positive. Because we know that some people with COVID self-isolate at home, but they don’t necessarily have access to food. And so, they always come to Our Place, ”he said.

The rules take effect as cases of COVID-19 among people living in temporary housing and shelters decline after increasing last month.

There were two cases of COVID-19 among the roughly 500 people living in homes run by Our Place last week, up from a peak of 56 cases last month, said McKenzie, who was surprised and happy to see the numbers. fall.

“I was really holding my breath, because you know how compromised people’s health is, so I really expected the numbers to go up dramatically,” he said.

He said the facilities created by the province this year to house hundreds of people have likely helped keep numbers from skyrocketing, providing many with a place to isolate themselves. The province has also created 50 isolation spaces in Victoria for people who contract COVID-19 and have nowhere to go, in response to increasing cases in the homeless community.

If the virus had hit hard in the first wave, when so many people had nowhere to go except a tent, “that could have been a different story,” he said.

Stinson also said cases were “quite low” after “significant numbers” through September and early October.

“It looks like we’ve come out the other side of it,” she said.

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