In March 2020, at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, safe isolation space emerged as a priority for people experiencing homelessness in order to mitigate transmission of the virus through emergency shelters and amongst vulnerable populations. It was recognized that the safety of the community was dependent upon the safety of our most vulnerable citizens. A partnership was established with key community stakeholders to secure access to 40 beds inside a local hotel. A care delivery model was developed, which included triage, safe transportation, medical consultation and access to harm reduction supports. People with lived experience provided valuable input into the staffing model with emphasis on ensuring a culturally safe environment with access to counselling supports and engagement in traditional healing practices. Access to service navigation was facilitated by numerous community service organizations at the conclusion of isolation.
In February 2021, following several months of operations, a second and specific State of Emergency was declared in the City of Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation because of an outbreak among individuals experiencing homelessness. This resulted in a rapid expansion of the Shelter from 40 beds in one location to 130 beds across two hotels. This required the development of additional critical referral pathways to include correctional services and regional partners to accommodate increased need for safe isolation space. Close consultation with Public Health supported infection prevention and control practices ensuring the safety of clients and staff; on-site nursing supports provided health status monitoring in collaboration with on-call physician services.