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Home  Covid19

ACT knows that we are living in an unprecedented moment. In an effort to respond quickly to the urgent needs of our community – whether service user, volunteer, care giver, supporter or donor - we wanted to create a page for our community to get resources and information about COVID-19.

We will update this page regularly as things change.

Condom Distribution Network
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With the closure of bars, bathhouses and many businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, ACT has set up a new condom distribution network in partnership with local pharmacies in Toronto’s downtown core to ensure that free prophylactics remain available.

Visit the Meds Experts Clinic and Pharmacy (located at 461 Church St), The PrEP Clinic (located at 401-344 Bloor St West), and The Village Pharmacy (located at 473 Church St. and/or 535 Yonge St), and Maple Leaf Medical Pharmacy (located at 14 College St.) to obtain male/external condoms and lube packets.

If you are unable to travel, The PrEP Clinic is offering free shipping of male/external and female/internal condoms and lube to anyone in Ontario. Naloxone kits (nasal spray), which serve to temporarily reverse an opiod overdose, are also available upon request. To place an order please e-mail: info@prepclinic.ca or call/text them at 416-420-1250.

For more information regarding condoms, including where you can further access free prophylactics and lube, visit the city’s website here or e-mail ACT’s Gay Men’s Resource and Community Education Coordinator at mburtch@actoronto.org


 

COVID-19 Information
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If you want more information about COVID-19, here are some resources for you:

 


City of Toronto information on COVID-19:

https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/ 


Government of Ontario information on COVID-19:

https://www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus 


 

Criminalization of COVID-19 Transmissions
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In a recent National Post article, Canada is making unprecedented use of the federal Quarantine Act in a bid to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting on Thursday, March 26 at midnight, all travellers returning to Canada are now legally required to go into self-isolation for 14 days rather than simply urged to do so. Steven Hoffman, director of the Global Strategy Lab and a global health law professor at York University said, "Someone violating direct instructions and potentially placing the public at risk of a communicable disease, he says, can face a fine of up to $1 million and as many as three years in prison."


 

Employment Supports
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Here are Some Resources Regarding Employment Support/EI, Rent, Food Resources:

Employment Supports:

www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html

The Federal government has announced that the two previously announced emergency benefits will be replaced by one: the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The CERB will be available for anyone who has lost their jobs -- full time, contract or self-employed workers.

It is clear that the EI system was not designed to process the unprecedented high volume of applications received in the past week. To help relieve the burden on the EI system, all Canadians who have ceased working due to COVID-19, whether they are EI-eligible or not, are eligible to receive the CERB to ensure they have timely access to the income support they need.

The portal for accessing the CERB will be available in early April and you can learn more about the proposed CERB here.

EI eligible Canadians who have lost their job can continue to apply for EI here, as can Canadians applying for other EI benefits. If you have questions about how to access EI, please see this resource from the City of Toronto.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – Employment and Social Development Canada: www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus.html

The following link if from the City of Toronto: The COVID-19 pandemic will have an economic impact on the livelihoods of Toronto residents and businesses. This page offers a list of resources which can be used to help minimize those impacts and help get Toronto residents back on their feet. Please check back often as new resources will be added as they become available.

www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/economic-support-recovery/economic-support-recovery-for-individuals-families/

www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus.html


 

Food Resources
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Food Resources:

Emergency Response COVID-19 Drop in & Take Away Meal Programs in the City

CENTRAL DOWNTOWN TORONTO

West Neighbourhood House: The Meeting Place

Address: 588 Queen St W

Services: Drop-in hours continues as essential services

Monday: 10 am - 4 pm

Tuesday: 11:30 am - 4 pm

Wednesday: 11:30 am – 6 pm

Thursday: 10 am – 6 pm

Friday: 10 am – 4 pm

Saturday: 10 am – 4 pm

Sunday: Closed


St Felix Centre

Address: 25 Augusta Ave

Services: 7 am – 7 pm drop-in is open for hot meals with a capacity that is limited to folks who are not housed or staying there. Bag lunches are provided.


The Scott Mission

Address: 502 Spadina Ave

Services: Pre-packaged groceries provided to go located and premade meals.Staff will be managing washroom shower, and laundry services.


Sistering

Address: 926 Bloor St W

Services: The Bloor drop-in remains open however not encouraging folks to stick around on property. Take away meals provided.


Native Youth Resource Centre

Address: 655 Bloor St W

Services: Providing take away meals.

Monday to Friday 10 am – 6 pm

Saturday 11 am – 5 pm

Sunday: Closed


WEST TORONTO

PARC (Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre)

Address: 1499 Queen St W

Services: Drop-in meals program continues for people non housed, takeaway meals for people housed.

Monday – Friday: 9 am -1 pm


St Francis Table

Address: 1322 Queen St W

Services: Take away meals for $1 or free with St Francis Voucher

Monday: 4:30 – 6 pm

Tuesday: 12 – 1 pm & 4:30 – 6 pm

Wednesday: 12 – 1 pm & 4:30 – 6 pm

Thursday: 12 – 1 pm & 4:30 – 6 pm.

Friday: 12 – 1 pm

Saturday: Closed

Sunday: 12 – 1 pm


Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Community Health Centre

Address: 1900 Davenport Rd

Services: Takeaway dinners on Monday & Wednesdays at 5 pm.


The Stop

Address: 1884 Davenport Rd

Services: The Stops Food Bank: Monday, Thursday and Fridays: 11 am – 3 pm

The Healthy Beginnings Food Bank: Wednesday: 12 – 1 pm

Drop in- (Take away meals only): Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

Breakfast 9 – 10 am

Lunch 12 – 1 pm

Advocacy Office Phone Line: Monday - Friday 10 am – 2 pm; 416-652-7867 ext 243


EAST TORONTO

Good Shepperd

Address: 412 Queen St East

Services: Breakfast provided for DARE and overnight guests.

Afternoon meal: bag lunches served from Tracey Street entrance 2 – 4 pm

Bed registration at 5 pm, overnight guests served hot meal at 6 pm


The 519

Address: 519 Church St

Services: Providing ready-to-go meals 7 days a week on the 519 in front of FABARNAK café

Monday to Friday: 1- 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday 12:30 pm


Church of Holy Trinity

Address: 10 Trinity Sq

Services: Take away meals Monday - Friday 11 am – 1 pm


All Saints Church-Community Centre

Address: 315 Dundas St E

Service Update: March 16 drop-in remains open to the homeless population. Asking housed community members to stay home but will provide groceries. Also, screening taking place at the door.

Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 8 am – 4 pm

Tuesday: 10:30 am – 4 pm

Friday breakfast program take away

Harm Reduction
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We encourage folk to maintain social isolation during this time to avoid risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 during this pandemic. If you are in need of supplies or support, please consider the following resources in community at this time. Stock up on supplies so you do not have to go back out into community to access more supplies, and try not to share or re-use equipment, as this can lead to infection.

 

  • The Works is open Mon-Sat from 1:30 - 8:00 pm for naloxone and supply distribution.
  • Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (Parkdale and Queen West locations) are open for harm reduction supplies and supervised consumption sites. Regent park is open Monday, Wednesday & Thursday from 10 am -12 pm;1 - 4 pm, Tuesday from 12 - 4 pm & Friday 10 am -12 pm & 1:30 pm.
  • Sherbourne Health Centre has a self-service cart in the parking lot from 9 am - 5 pm for harm reduction supplies.
  • Street Health is open 10 am - 4 pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday & 11 am - 4 pm on Tuesday.
  • Consumption and Treatment Services at Fred Victor are operating at regular hours, subject to change.
  • St. Michael’s Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinic still running Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 9 am to 11 pm for new clients, detox or psychiatry is closed, but acute addiction related support issues are available.
  • Call the Overdose Prevention Hotline: 1-888-853-8352. This connects you with a peer who can stay on the line with you as you use your drug.
  • Naloxone kit access upon release at Toronto South Detention Centre: Naloxone kits are available for people on release at TSDC but they must ask a correctional officer at discharge and a nurse will bring it to them.
  • Harm Reduction Frontline Worker COVID Information Sharing Call: everyone Wednesday afternoon 2:30-4:30. To participate by teleconference: 416-915-6530, and use meeting access code: 802 539 305. To participate online use this link: https://toronto.webex.com/toronto/j.php?MTID=ma3a7ab2974c542b4e20a60f9d1ba0abf , and use the meeting password Toronto2020.

 

 

HIV & COVID-19
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Are you a person living with HIV? Here's what you need to know about COVID-19 & HIV:

The Body: The HIV AIDS Resource:

Are people living with HIV at greater risk for getting the new coronavirus?

Scientists aren't certain yet. But if you're on HIV treatment and have a relatively good CD4 count, then your immune system is in a good place to prevent infection.

If a person with HIV has the coronavirus, are they more likely to get very sick or die?

We don't have research on this yet. But as long as your immune system is healthy -- i.e., you're taking HIV medications and your CD4 count is not low -- that will help fight off infection.

Does a person's CD4 (T-cell) count affect their coronavirus risk?

There's no research on this yet. But a "normal" CD4 count -- which, depending on the person, can be anywhere from 450 to 1,100 -- can protect a person from many illnesses.

How can people with HIV protect themselves from the coronavirus?

Stay on HIV medications, and try to stay physically active and eat nutritionally. Beyond that: wash your hands, avoid travel, practice social distancing, rest, and avoid stress.

How should a person with HIV prepare for possible coronavirus infection?

Try to obtain at least a 30-day supply of HIV meds (90, if you can). Tell people close to you what medications you're on. Talk with your care provider about what to do if you get sick.

Can HIV meds prevent or treat coronavirus infection?

There is zero reliable research to date supporting the effectiveness of any HIV medications in preventing or treating COVID-19.

What should a person with HIV do if they have the coronavirus?

Keep taking your HIV meds. Stay home -- if you need to leave for medical care, call ahead. If you live with someone else, don't share any personal items. Clean surfaces frequently. Consider wearing a mask.

For more information check out this article from The Body, What You Need to Know About the New Coronavirus and HIV:

www.thebody.com/health/hiv-coronavirus-covid-19?ap=2007&fbclid=IwAR0KvmJld_1mdWSEeDKNKMh4W2_sc-JzKZQfelgCfTJJMiu4L7kxpNHLoWI


CATIE: Canada's Source for HIV and Hepatitis C Information:

CATIE Resource on COVID-19: Insight from the front lines of HIV, hepatitis C and harm reduction:

www.catie.ca/en/webinars/coping-covid-19-insight-front-lines-hiv-hepatitis-c-and-harm-reduction


 

Housing Supports
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Homelessness Services COVID-19 Response:Rent:

Frequently Asked Questions and Resources

This FAQ sheet has been developed to answer questions that homeless service providers may have about COVID-19 and SSHA's response. In addition to this document, service providers are encouraged to review the City's website for updates on Shelter Support & Housing Administration services, and to review the following resources which are also available on the website link above:

  • TPH Interim Guidance for Homelessness Service Setting Providers (updated March 30)
  • COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Tips for Homelessness Service Providers
  • TPH Pandemic Planning Guide for Housing Services and Shelters
  • COVID-19 client screening tool for homelessness service settings
  • COVID-19 screening process for clients in homelessness service settings
  • Checklist for clients referred for COVID-19 testing
  • Instructions for arranging non-emergency transportation for clients

Note that as the situation is changing rapidly, the answers we provide today may change tomorrow based on updated circumstances and information.

Please stay up to date with the most recent information to keep yourself informed of new developments by referring to credible sources of information, such as Toronto Public Health’s website and the City's website for updates on SSHA services.


SECTION 1: SSHA SERVICES AND RESPONSE TO COVID-19

What is SSHA doing to respond to the emergence of COVID-19?

Based on the evidence and medical advice we have received, we know we need to quickly take actions to delay the spread of COVID-19 to significantly reduce risks. The City has developed a three tier approach to strengthening prevention against COVID-19 in our emergency shelter system.

We have rapidly implemented this plan since March 16, mobilizing our response on an urgent basis, to be as prepared and stay one step ahead of a very rapidly evolving situation. We are taking these steps because we know that many people experiencing homelessness have underlying chronic medical conditions that increase their risk from COVID-19 and this is a particularly vulnerable population.

Added Space for Physical Distancing

Since March 16, 2020, SSHA has opened eight new facilities to better allow for physical distancing between clients. The focus has been to create more than 350 spaces as quickly as possible within City facilities to create additional physical distancing within our current programs, particularly our 24-hour respite sites and 24-hour drop-ins. The new sites opened are at the following locations:

  1. John Innes Community Recreation Centre, 150 Sherbourne
  2. Warden Hilltop Community Centre, 25 Mendelssohn
  3. Driftwood Community Recreation Centre, 4401 Jane
  4. Jimmie Simpson Recreation Centre, 872 Queen St.
  5. Matty Eckler Community Recreation Centre, 953 Gerrard St. E (for women and trans clients only)
  6. Masaryk Cowan Community Centre (relocation of Sistering’s 24-hour drop-in services, operated by Sistering)

Information on each new facility is available on Homeless Help.

Out of the Cold programs typically wind-down for the season in late-March and early April. This year, Dixon Hall continues to operate an Out of the Cold location at 188 Carlton St. The location has 45 beds for the rest of the Out of the Cold season. An additional location is operating at 354 George St. with 50 beds.

If required, the City will activate Metro Hall during an Extreme Cold Weather Alert.

There are an additional 10 facilities identified and ready to be activated as they are needed, and we are also exploring opportunities to use additional available hotels as shelter spaces.

We have also opened a dedicated site through a hotel program available for people who have entered the country within the past 14 days, providing them with the ability to self- isolate, as recommended by TPH. Central Intake asks screening questions of people calling for shelter access and refers them directly to this program.

Isolation for Clients Waiting for Test Results

We have created a dedicated program with isolation spaces and appropriate health supports for people identified through screening and assessment processes that are waiting for test results. Referrals to the program are coordinated directly from the testing centres. This is the first program of its kind in Canada.

Currently we are implementing screening processes using the Toronto Public Health recommended screening questions at all points of entry by phone or in-person for all those seeking shelter. Anyone wanting to access the shelter system who should be assessed for COVID-19, is being referred to one of the province's assessment centres.

Isolation for Clients Who Test Positive for COVID-19

The City has secured a location to provide a service for people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are working to prepare the site to be ready to open. We continue to work with our partners at the Inner City Health Associates to identify and secure the required health supports to activate this program.

Rapid Housing Initiative

To reduce risk of particularly vulnerable populations, we are developing a Rapid Housing Access Initiative to prioritize housing offers to existing shelter clients to available Toronto Community Housing units. Clients are being referred through our Coordinated Access system and will be provided with supports to be successful in achieving housing stability. Units will be prioritized for particularly vulnerable individuals, including seniors. As of March 30, 36 households have been matched to housing. The units will be fully furnished in partnership with the Furniture Bank. 29 additional units have been secured for the referral of additional shelter clients in the coming weeks.

2.    Are the sites being set up meant to offset the closures of Out of the Cold and provide additional space for people, or to spread out clients of existing shelters that continue to operate?

SSHA has opened eight new facilities with more than 350 new spaces to create more opportunity for physical distancing.

  • Five locations are intended to provide additional physical distancing in our existing 24-hour respite sites. Clients have been moved from those programs to reduce capacity at those
  • One program is operated by Sistering to provide additional physical distancing for their 24-hour drop-in.
  • Two programs with 95 spaces are to offset the early wind-down of OOTC

We are currently working to identify additional program locations, including use of hotel programs, to provide additional physical distancing in other existing shelter programs.

3.    Is SSHA opening more beds in hotels and university residences as part of its Covid- 19 response?

We continue to explore opportunities to use additional available hotels as spaces for isolation or recovery for people experiencing homelessness during COVID-19.

We have already contracted with 5 hotel sites with a total of up to 650 rooms. Two of the sites are already in use and we are in the process of identifying required supports and activating the others this week. A further 5 hotels with up to 500 rooms are in the process of being secured.

Because of the availability of existing city properties and hotels for use as shelter, we have not pursued college dorms as yet. Some students not able to find other accommodation under short notice may still be in the buildings. This remains an ongoing option for consideration moving forward.

We are working with ICHA and our partners to identify those at greatest risk to move first. We are working with community agencies to determine their capacity to support programs through hotel locations, otherwise City staff will be providing onsite support.

4.    Are any positive cases of COVID-19 in the shelter system? What happens if/when there is?

As of March 30, there are five confirmed positive cases in the shelter. TPH has advised that they have no evidence of an outbreak to date.

When someone using our shelter system tests positive, TPH notifies SSHA and the shelter or respite provider. TPH is responsible for leading the case and contact investigation and recommending next steps to manage health risks for the site, staff and clients who were in close contact with the individual. SSHA will fully cooperate with TPH's investigation and support implementation of the steps identified by TPH.

5.    How is Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) supporting the response within the homelessness sector?

ICHA is a key partner in our response, supporting program delivery and management at our current isolation site, as well as providing advice and guidance in assessing and referring clients to testing.

6.    Should homelessness service providers expect a surge in demand for services as a result of the COVID-19 related economic crisis?

SSHA has taken steps to protect housing stability during these challenging economic times. Social housing providers have been instructed to discontinue eviction-related processes and issuance of Notices of Decision for Loss of Eligibility – RGI Assistance. SSHA has suspended the processing of existing and incoming Requests for Review – Loss of Eligibility for RGI Assistance.

Housing providers have been directed to be flexible and exercise discretion on rent payments particularly as they apply to households whose primary source of income is employment. Housing providers have been instructed to work with impacted tenants to defer rent payments and/or enter into payment agreements.

In addition, the provincial government has suspended evictions and instructed the Sheriff’s Offices to halt any scheduled enforcement. Questions related to evictions should be directed to the Province's Rental Housing Enforcement Unit or call 416-585-7214 or1-888-772-9277.

Important work is being undertaken by community partners such as the John Howard Society to ensure that individuals who are released from corrections have a safe place to go to upon release from prison. We are encouraging the provincial government to provide the necessary supports and resources needed for people being discharged from provincial institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

SECTION 2: CHANGES IN SERVICE AVAILABILITY FOR PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS

  1. What SSHA services will stay open/be closed during this time?

Shelters and Supports for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness

129 Peter Street referral centre has been closed to walk-in service. All referrals to shelter should be directed to Central Intake at 416-338-4766. Clients can access Central Intake by calling 311 or 1-877-338-3398, toll-free from any pay phone. The nearest payphone to 129 Peter Street is located at Queen St. W and Bathurst St.

All City-operated shelters, respites and 24-hour women's drop-ins will remain open.

Response to non-urgent community and client complaints and community meetings and site visits will be suspended. Shelter and overnight service daily occupancy reporting will also be suspended.

Should Environment and Climate Change Canada forecast a temperature of -15° C or colder, or a wind chill of -20° C or colder, the Medical Officer of Health will issue an Extreme Cold Weather Alert and the City will carry out the Cold Weather Response Plan.

Street Outreach

Outreach workers continue to proactively connect with people to provide support, referrals to shelter and housing, provide COVID-19 education, screening for COVID-19, referral to testing at Provincial Assessment Centre, and to assess safety. All clearing of homeless encampments has been put on hold until further notice.

Housing Support

Most Housing Stability Services will continue, including payments to service providers and landlords, and processing of Housing Allowance applications. Some services may be subject to longer wait times.

Access to Housing (Housing Connections) offices at 176 Elm St. will be closed. Residents can continue to submit applications by fax, online, or by mail. Information on Rent-Geared- to-Income Housing is available at toronto.ca/accesstohousing or by contacting Housing Help Centres.

Please contact Housing Help Centres to confirm hours and in-person services available. Their contact information is available via the City's Homeless Help page.

Responding to general inquiries regarding files and requests for program information is suspended. Emails sent to ask@housingconnections.com will be responded to once normal operations resume.

Financial services and contract administration activities will continue. This includes Social Housing Apartment Improvement Program (SHAIP) and Toronto Renovates payments.

2.    Are day time drop-in services still available?

Most drop-in programs remain open, although many have adjusted their services to accommodate physical distancing measures. For example, some are offering take away meals only, appointment-only service, and/or telephone and email outreach to vulnerable clients.

Please contact the drop-in provider directly to determine operating hours and the availability of in person services. A listing of SSHA-funded drop-ins with contact information is available on Homeless Help. The Toronto Drop-In Network is maintaining a directory of services available at this time.

SSHA is currently conducting a survey of day time drop-in services to assess service levels and needs in order to inform a coordinated response and daytime drop-ins have been provided with additional funding to support their COVID-19 response.

3.    Are clients allowed to stay in shelters 24/7 or are they required to leave during the day?

The majority of our shelters operate 24/7 and people are allowed to stay inside. We have a few programs that are still overnight only and they will be receiving the funding required to operate all day as part of the COVID-19 response, to ensure people staying in those programs have a place to be indoors during the day given the closure of other community spaces.

4.    Where can clients pick up OW and ODSP cheques while many government offices are closed?

Clients who pick up Ontario Works cheques in person can do so at one of three Employment and Social Services locations on March 30th and April 1st: Details about when and where clients should go are available on the City's website, under the 'Employment and Social Services' tab.

ODSP cheques will be available at ODSP offices for regular pick up on March 31st.

5.    Where can clients access toilets and hand washing, with many indoor locations being closed?

The City has opened seven toilet and hand washing stations in the downtown core. Supplies at these stations will be replenished regularly:

  • Alexandra Park
  • Regent Park
  • Dundas Square
  • Wellesley Community Centre
  • Moss Park
  • Sunnyside Park
  • Little Norway Park

 

SECTION 3: CLIENT ADMISSION AND SCREENING

  1. How can service providers refer clients seeking shelter at this time?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, please assist clients seeking shelter to call the Central Intake Line at 416-338-4766, 1-877-338-3398 toll-free or 311 to be referred to available shelter and respite spaces. Temporary shelter and respite sites may not have space to accommodate walk-in referrals. Calling Central Intake in advance is recommended to minimize unnecessary travel in keeping with physical distancing guidelines provided by Toronto Public Health.

2.    Should/can shelters go into lockdown and shelter in place – should shelters stop accepting new referrals?

Shelters should continue to maintain their existing capacity and accept new admissions into your programs, while implementing the physical distancing approaches identified by Toronto Public Health. Given the ongoing pressures on the shelter system and needs of this very vulnerable population, we need to continue to provide safe indoor places for people to seek

shelter. Shelter to shelter transfers should be suspended where possible to limit movement between programs.

3.    How should sites be screening clients for COVID-19?

One of our key priorities has been to develop processes to screen clients and refer them for testing to one of the COVID-19 Assessment Centres. In partnership with Toronto Public Health, we have developed a screening tool and instructions for accessing transportation from shelters, 24-hour respites, 24-hour drop-ins, day time drop-ins and Streets to Homes to testing centres for clients who meet the screening criteria. Clients should be screened on intake to the program, as well as active monitoring of existing clients for development of symptoms.

More information is available on the TPH website about locations of testing centres.

4.    What precautions should sites take for refugees who have recently arrived or clients who have recent travel history?

The federal government has restricted entry to Canada. Most foreign nationals are not currently being admitted across the border. The client screening tool provides direction for shelter sites regarding screening of clients who are recent arrivals.

5.    Who can access non-emergency transportation for homeless clients who meet the screening criteria?

City-operated or funded shelters, 24-hour respite sites, 24-hour women's drop-ins, day time drop-ins and any other service that works with clients who are experiencing homelessness can access non-emergency transportation for homeless clients needing transportation to an assessment centre and/or to the isolation site following assessment.

Transportation is available between 8am and midnight every day.

6.    Will the non-emergency transportation that will bring from shelter sites to the Assessment Centres be marked with signage noting it is transporting individuals potentially exposed to COVID-19? Is there a way to minimize stigmatization of the individual and maintain their privacy dignity?

The third party contracted transportation company has been instructed not to have such signage for the reasons outlined. The drivers will arrive wearing full personal protective equipment to transport clients with symptoms of COVID-19 to the assessment centres or hospital for testing.

Please understand this service is being provided in place of a regular ambulance that would arrive for this same purpose with staff in full PPE. Unfortunately, our EMS service is not currently able to provide this as they are overstretched.

It is helpful to educate neighbours and others in the community about the important work we are doing to quickly isolate very vulnerable members of our community who show symptoms and have them tested. After testing a special isolation shelter has been established for people to stay until their test results are returned.

7.    Are you going to provide sites with infrared thermometers?

At this time there are no plans to provide sites with infrared thermometers. You are encouraged to purchase supplies required for your response, using the additional funding has been provided for IPAC and other supplies.

8.    If a client needs to go off-site to attend an appointment, will the TTC still accept tokens?

The TTC is no longer accepting cash, TTC tickets or TTC tokens on buses at this time, but individuals will not be denied service. Instead, customers are asked to pay at their first opportunity (i.e. when they transfer onto a streetcar or at a station).

Remind clients they must board and exit buses from the rear doors only, and to maintain physical distance from other customers and the operator while on transit.

 

SECTION 4: CLIENT TESTING

  1. Where will clients who meet COVID-19 screening criteria go for isolation after testing? What supports will they have?

SSHA has identified a dedicated location with individual rooms where clients can self-isolate while they wait for COVID-19 test results. Clients will be transported to this location from testing centres and will remain there until they have received their test results. Clients will have access to medical support and medication storage on site, and the site is operating from a harm reduction lens and is family friendly. Each room has a television and telephone. Once clients have received a negative test result, they will be transferred back to their referring shelter program.

No direct referrals to this isolation program will be accepted outside of this process. To protect the confidentiality of clients who are testing for COVID-19, and because the site is not available to clients outside of this process, the exact location of the site will remain confidential.

Hospitals and assessment centres have been directed not to discharge people experiencing homelessness back to the street or to shelters while they are waiting for test results. They should be provided a place to stay in the health care system until a referral to the isolation program is possible.

2.    What harm reduction supports are available to clients at the isolation site?

The isolation site is operating from a harm reduction lens and has a wide range of support available for people who use substances. For example, clients are permitted to smoke inside their rooms, methadone and managed alcohol programming is available, and peer supports are on site. The site is staffed 24/7 with nurses.

Clients and staff can refer to Toronto Public Health's COVID-19 Harm Reduction Tips and Covid-19 Overdose Response Tips

3.    Should shelters hold beds for clients who have been sent for COVID-19 testing?

Yes. Clients will remain at the isolation site for approximately 24-72 hours while test results are obtained. If the results are negative, they will return to their shelter bed at the referring program.

4.    What should sites do if a client refuses to be tested for COVID-19?

Staff should use their relationship with clients to help them understand the importance of testing, and should offer additional supports to clients to encourage testing (e.g., accompanying them to the testing site). If a client continues to refuse testing, staff should alert the DOC at sshadoc@toronto.ca. The DOC staff will pass the information on to the EOC at the City, who will advise on next steps.

5.    If a client is sent for COVID-19 testing and the test is negative, will they be given documentation to show the shelter their test was negative?

Clients who are referred for COVID-19 testing will be assessed by public health staff to determine whether testing is necessary. Upon confirmation of a negative test result, individuals may return to the shelter/respite/drop-in program they were previously admitted to. We are currently developing tracking processes on results of testing and will update as new information is available.

6.    What happens next if a client is sent for COVID-19 testing and the test is positive?

If a client has been waiting for test results at the isolation site and receives a positive result, Toronto Public Health will implement their contact tracing and notification protocol.

 

SECTION 5: CLIENT ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE

  1. How can clients self-isolate in a shelter/respite/24-hour drop-in environment?

SSHA has created some two dedicated programs for isolation and is working to implement an additional program to increase capacity for isolation spaces.

Please consider the possible options for creating isolation spaces within your facility to the extent possible. For example, designate any separate rooms with closed doors, with separate bathrooms if possible or designate an accessible or all gender washroom for this purpose. If only shared rooms are available, consider designating a room with the fewest possible number of other residents.

Review the information available from Ontario Public Health about how to self-isolate and guidance for caregivers and household members of people who are self-isolating.

2.    Where do people go from the isolation site if they test positive for COVID-19?

The City has identified a location to provide a service for people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive for COVID-19, but critically need health care supports in place before we operationalize this site. We are working with Inner City Health Associates to identify those supports.

3.    Is the current dedicated isolation site enough to meet the demand?

As the number of people being tested has increased over the past week due to changes to the screening criteria made by Ontario Public Health, demand for isolation spaces has also increased. Where a space is not immediately available in the isolation program, hospitals are required to keep people in their locations until a space is available.

We have requested prioritization of test results for people experiencing homelessness so the available beds can be released to others who need them more quickly.

We anticipate that as the situation develops, there will be a need for additional isolation spaces and we are working to expand our capacity this week.

 

SECTION 6: FRONTLINE STAFF TESTING AND ISOLATION

  1. How and when should frontline staff be tested for COVID-19?

Staff should follow Toronto Public Health's COVID-19 testing guidelines. Staff at homelessness sector organizations are considered essential and should be tested when presenting at an assessment centre.

2.    How should sites manage staffing issues while staff are self-isolating or feeling unwell?

Sites should develop contingency plans as soon as possible. Planning should include identifying mandated and critical services, ranking all services in order of priority, and planning to limit non-essential or lower priority services as needed. Staff serving non- essential functions should be trained to backfill essential positions wherever possible.

 

SECTION 7: REDUCING RISK OF INFECTION

  1. Where can sites get access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, and additional cleaning supplies?

We recognize that access to personal protective equipment (PPE) is critical to being able to provide services safely and that this is an area of concern for many providers.

There is a limited supply of PPE and cleaning supplies available. The City is currently assessing what PPE and cleaning supplies are on hand and how to ensure first responders and health care providers have the equipment they need. SSHA is working to prioritize the homeless sector to receive PPE and cleaning supplies and is developing a distribution plan as supplies become available.

To provide some immediate relief, we have provided additional funding to all shelter, 24- hour respites, 24-hour drop-ins and daytime drop-ins to support increased infection control and prevention activities, and purchase specialized cleaning supplies, PPE and increase social distancing (e.g. using curtains).

Please note that masks are not currently recommended for frontline staff who are feeling well and interacting with clients who are feeling well. Physical distancing protocols recommended by TPH should be followed in these cases. Masks are should be prioritized for use by people who are feeling unwell. In general, N95 masks are not recommended as appropriate protective equipment in response to COVID-19.

Physical distancing and proper hand hygiene are the first lines of response in preventing the transmission of COVID-19. Staff should regularly and thoroughly clean their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. These measures can drastically mitigate potential contaminants that may cause illness. Staff should continue to follow personal hygiene measures outlined in the City’s Tip-Sheet on COVID-19 Prevention.

2.    How can shelter operators encourage physical distancing in shelters?

We continue to work closely with our partners at Toronto Public Health and Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) in developing physical distancing guidelines for homeless services. As these are being developed, we encourage you to consider the feasibility of implementing any of the following best practices at your sites:

  • Increase spacing between beds where possible
  • Arrange beds so that individuals lay head-to-toe (or toe-to-toe)
  • Use neutral barriers (foot lockers, curtains) to create barriers between beds
  • Stagger mealtimes to reduce crowding in shared eating facilities
  • Stagger the schedule for use of common/shared kitchens
  • Create a staggered bathing schedule to reduce the amount of people using the facilities at the same time
  • Create a schedule for using common spaces

Sleeping areas should provide a minimum of 3.5 m2 (37.7 ft2) of personal space per client in sleeping areas, as per Toronto Shelter Standards and 24-Hour Respite Standards.

A lateral separation of 2m (6.5 ft.) should be maintained between mats/cots where possible, in alignment with physical distancing guidelines established by Toronto Public Health. SSHA is aware that not all sites are able to meet this guideline and is currently assessing how to mitigate risks at these locations.

3.    Of the current shelter system, how many meet the physical distancing guidelines set by TPH?

While the current lateral separation in Toronto Shelter Standards does not meet TPH's physical distancing guidance of 6 ft, many shelters do already exceed the minimum requirements of 2.5 feet between beds. We are currently undertaking assessment of what proportion of our existing shelter sites are able to meet the 6 ft physical distancing guidelines and how to mitigate locations that aren't able to meet that. We have encouraged shelters to implement additional spacing between beds where possible.

We are currently working to identify additional program locations, including use of hotel programs, to provide additional physical distancing in our existing shelter programs.

4.    Are the new temporary facilities are set up to meet the physical distancing guidelines?

The new temporary programs we have set up are required to meet the Toronto Public Health guideline for physical distancing.

See link to current photos below https://twitter.com/cityoftoronto/status/1243633313283260425?s=20

5.    What can service operators do to reduce risk of infection at their sites?

To reduce the risk of infection and ensure ongoing service capacity, we ask that all providers implement the following measures:

  • Implement physical distancing strategies at your sites where feasible
  • Suspend shelter to shelter transfer practices
  • Temporarily limit service restrictions, except in cases where a shelter provider determines that the service-restricted client poses an immediate threat or danger to another individual’s health or safety, or the security of the shelter
  • Divert resources as needed to ensure continued delivery of core support services
  • Support clients with family reunification where possible to reduce their risk of exposure
  • Eliminate non-essential visitors and service providers on-site, and screen all visitors on entry to the premises

In keeping with these recommendations, SSHA will be suspending non-essential initiatives at this time. Monthly 24-Respite Standards site visits and upcoming schedule Shelter Standards Assessment site visits will be postponed until further notice. The Street Needs Assessment, planned for later in April, will also be postponed until further notice.

We encourage each service provider to review your own operations and suspend non- essential services. These decisions should be made by your organization. Please email sshadoc@toronto.ca to report any changes to your services and copy your lead SSHA staff.

6.    Should sites increase Infection Prevention and Control practices at this time?

A reminder to continue to increase routine practices of IPAC within your facility as one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of infections. Refer to the IPAC guide developed by Toronto Public Health specifically for shelter and 24-hour respite site services.

7.    What should shelters do if community members complain that they observe people outside a shelter, 24-hour respite or 24-hour drop-in who are not demonstrating physical distancing?

SSHA is committed to working closely with shelter, 24-hour respites and 24-hour drop-in providers to implement measures to increase physical distancing. Homelessness service providers are encouraged to take measures to implement and encourage physical distancing using approaches identified by Toronto Public Health.

It is challenging to enforce physical distancing in a public space and not all individual involved may be service users. Service providers can help ensure physical distancing in

client queues outside sites by chalking out 2 metre distances on the sidewalk and asking clients to adhere to markings.

More generally, service providers should attempt to engage and educate clients on the importance of preventative and containment measures in relation to COVID-19.

  • Use rapport to engage
  • Inquire if there are supports that can be put in place to assist clients with physical distancing and/or screening if

Please do not restrict service to shelter.

If you have additional concerns or need to escalate a situation, your site supervisor can contact SSHA DOC at sshadoc@toronto.ca

 

SECTION 8: FUNDING SUPPORTS

  1. How can my agency apply for funding support for homelessness service providers recently announced by the provincial and federal governments?

The City is waiting for confirmation of funding details and criteria from both the federal and provincial governments related to new funding announcements. Once we have additional information we will share this with the sector. Funding available will be used to cover the costs of Toronto’s COVID-19 response.

SSHA is in regular contact with all of our funded partner agencies to better understand their needs and cost pressures, and has distributed some interim flexible funding to all shelters, 24-respite sites and drop-in programs to assist with their increased costs as a result of COVID-19. We will continue to expand that approach as we implement our response to COVID-19 and assess need.

2.    What about increased income support payments from province?

The City will coordinate requests to the Province on funding to support vulnerable individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Recent announcements have confirmed funding for additional income supports.

The City has established a Community Services working group to coordinate response across community based social service programs. Food security is a key priority for the group, who will be working with community partners to identify solutions.

 

SECTION 9: SPECIFIC QUERIES

  1. I have a specific query related to my site/program. Who should I contact?

If you have questions, we encourage you to contact your SSHA Lead Staff or send us your questions to the centralized email address sshadoc@toronto.ca and we will provide responses in our future email communications.


Rent:

Note that as the situation is changing rapidly, the answers we provide today may change tomorrow based on updated circumstances and information.

Please stay up to date with the most recent information to keep yourself informed of new developments by referring to credible sources of information, such as Toronto Public Health’s website and the City's website for updates on SSHA services.

During this time, many people may find it difficult to pay their rent. Try to talk to your landlord if you feel you cannot pay rent; the landlord might defer or even lower your rent. It is also important that you know your rights as a tenant. For more information, check out this link: www.ontario.ca/page/renting-ontario-your-rights 

The Landlord and Tenant Board (www.sjto.gov.on.ca/ltb/) issued a press release on March 17, stating, they will suspend some eviction hearings and orders, except for matters that relates to an urgent issue such as an illegal act or serious impairment of safety.  It is likely tenants ignoring COVID-19 protocols will become a "serious impairment of safety."


 

Impact For Immigrant Hearings
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The ​Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) continues to actively monitor developments related to COVID-19, and has been striving to both protect the health and well-being of its staff and those who appear before the Board, while continuing to ensure access to justice to the extent possible.

As a result of the evolving situation relating to COVID-19, including developments across the country as recently as this weekend, this is to advise that effective Tuesday March 17, 2020, all in-​person hearings and mediations, other than detention reviews, will be postponed until further notice. Postponed hearings and mediations ​will be rescheduled promptly.

Further details, including operational practices offering flexibilities regarding the filing of new cases, will be shared COB Monday, March 16, 2020.

The IRB is committed to being as flexible as reasonably possible in assisting IRB members and staff as well as those who appear before the Board under these exceptional circumstances.


 

Intersecting Realities of Gender-Based Violence and COVID -19
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WHAI and the YWCA partnered to host a webinar to raise awareness about the impact of COVID-19 on women who are experiencing violence as well as the service providers who work with these women and to build our collective capacity to address these realities.

Guest Speakers for this webinar included:

  • Ashley Smoke, Harm Reduction Advocate & Drug Use Culture Consultant
  • Hannah Lin, Executive Director, YWCA Muskoka
  • Jessica St. Peter, Public Educator, Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis
  • Lieran Docherty, Program Manager, Women Abuse Council of Toronto
  • Natalie Kaminski, Harm Reduction Outreach Coordinator, Moyo Health & Community Services
  • Rebecca Rogers, Manager of Programs & Services, Interim Place
  • Sydney Piggott, Director of Programs & Projects, YWCA

To check out the webinar video, please visit: https://whai.ca/news/the-intersecting-realities-of-gender-based-violence-covid-19-webinar/

Social Isolation & Mental Health
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Why is Social Isolation Important and How Can You Cope With Social Isolation and COVID-19 Anxiety:


The 519: Emotional Self Care:

www.the519.org/covid19-emotional-selfcare?fbclid=IwAR3fvRDXQYDFUvHP0l5la5OcuRsFcCLu8-HxsHWPLpjLUz8da1mvB44VPLA


E-Mental Health: Mental Health Services, Help and Support in Your Community:

www.ementalhealth.ca/Ontario/Crisis-Lines-including-Telephone-Online-and-Chat/index.php


CAMH: Mental Health and COVID-19 Pandemic:

www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-health-and-covid-19


ACT

Loneliness:

 

For the most up to date info about ACTs programs and services, check out our latest Newsletter:

mailchi.mp/actoronto.org/unprecedentedtimes


 

Strategies for a Gender-Inclusive Response to COVID-19
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As the HIV Sector continues to work with community partners to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency, WHAI is
committed to supporting the integration of a gendered approach. Our hope is that the context and tips shared here will help to
inform your work while aligning with WHAI’s community capacity building objectives.


 

Testing (HIV & STIs) & PrEP Access
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Regarding the City of Toronto's Response to COVID-19 and sexual health centers: 

"To help slow the rate of the COVID-19 infection, the City of Toronto has scaled back and/or modified the delivery of non-essential services and closed many facilities. The tentative date for services to resume is April 5. The details on some www.toronto.ca pages may not be accurate at this time." - Toronto.ca


Hassle Free Clinic will be open BY APPOINTMENT ONLY as of March 17. 

  • "Hassle Free -Men, Women & Trans clinic- will be open Monday, Wednesday and Friday, BY APPOINTMENT ONLY. From 12 - 5 pm. We will only see people for treatment, STI contacts, birth control prescriptions or plan B. At this time; there will be NO HIV TESTING, NO ROUTINE STI TESTING & NO VACCINATION." - Hassle Free's website 
  • No bathhouse testing at Steamworks or Spa-Excess; and no satellite testing at 519, St. Stephen’s, ACT, etc.
  • Clinic is doing testing/treatment if you have symptoms or if you have been in contact with someone who tested positive for an STI. Just no routine HIV/STI testing without symptoms.
  • Virtual Care Clinic
  • HIV and syphilis testing available by appointment only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during clinic hours. Book appointment by calling 416-922-0566 or visiting their website at www.hasslefreeclinic.org 

           A doctor will speak to you either on the phone or via videoconferencing to help diagnose and treat you for whatever your sexual health concern may be. Prescriptions can be sent to your  closest pharmacy and you will be able to collect your own specimens for submission at the clinic. Ontario health coverage is not needed -- everyone  receives free care!

All genders and sexualities are welcome.

Please book your appointment by calling 416-922-0566


The AIDS & Sexual Health Info Line at 416-392-2437 is currently down. 


The Village Pharmacy (535 Yonge Street) continues to offer HIV Testing every Friday from 10am-5pm and every Saturday from 10 am  - 5 pm. Those interesting in receiving a test must call 416-960-2323. They will be required to answer screening questions over the phone first, and then the Village Pharmacy will schedule an appointment for their nominal (not rapid/point of care) HIV Test.


Planned Parenthood (36 Prince Arthur Blvd) is only doing rapid and anonymous HIV testing by appointment between Monday to Friday. Their telephone number is 416-961-0113.


PrEP Access

Maple Leaf PrEP Clinic

Tel. # 416-920-1991

New patients: Maple Leaf will not be accepting new patients at this time. Those interested can be added to a call back list once normal activities resume.

Existing patients:

  • All existing appointments will be conducted by telephone.
  • After the phone call, the prescription will be faxed to the pharmacy of your choice. They request that you have your pharmacy’s fax number on hand.
  • To reduce stress on labs, bloodwork will not be requisitioned (unless the physician deems it necessary during the phone call)

Other:

  • All STI testing and vaccinations have been suspended.
  • Treatment for patients who have positive STI results OR have had a partner with a confirmed infection will continue. By appointment only. Please call for next steps.
  • Those who absolutely need to visit the clinic are advised to practice social distancing and to come alone.

MedsExpert Clinic + Pharmacy

Tel. # 416-922-MEDS (6337)

New patients:

  • New patients are being accepted at this time.
  • New patients are asked to use their prep assessment online tool to book appointments www.medsexpert.ca/prep.

Existing patients:

  • Specialists will consult with clients via telephone or other approved telemedicine methods.
  • Prescriptions will be delivered directly to the pharmacy

Other:

  • Operating under normal business hours.
  • Refill requests available online at www.medsexpert.ca/refills
  • Free delivery across Canada in 1 business day.
  • medsExpert will be able to assist clients in quarantine, those who need early refills, and a longer supply of medications to last through the coming months.
  • All clients are screened for COVID-19 and anyone who either meets the case definition through active screening by the pharmacist or self identifies as meeting the case definition while at the pharmacy will be separated from other visitors and staff so that they are at least 2 meters apart and given a surgical/procedure mask while pharmacy staff call their local public health unit and a plan for travel and further COVID-19 assessment is made.

The PrEP Clinic

Tel. # 416-420-1250

New Patients:

  • New patients are being accepted at this time.
  • New patients must have blood work done prior to receiving a prescription (lab test will be requisitioned).
  • Services are primarily provided online through video chat using their app.

Existing patients: Refills will be reauthorized based on assessment of medication adherence and absence of symptoms (lab test may not be requisitioned)

Other:

  • Free shipping to client’s doors across the province is available so they do not need to go out. 
  • Monday walk-in clinic and test collection at the Toronto site are following both passive and active screening - as well as upholding strict sanitization procedures.

 

Toronto Services Available During COVID-19
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