To serve the needs of their community members in the changing times of COVID-19, Mount Carmel Clinic had to make many adjustments in how they work.
“We’ve been really trying to shift what we do, and the need has increased in many ways,” said Rebecca Blaikie, Director of Community Services for Mount Carmel Clinic. “And we’re not offering all the same things anymore.”
To accommodate many of the group activities that are no longer available, many of the programs, like Sage House, which normally offers drop-in and outreach, moved entirely to outreach.
Blaikie said they quadrupled their food provision and distribution, and since a lot of the food banks that their clients use have closed, the agency has become their food bank.
Teams are now out on the street doing deliveries, with some staff working at Sage House.
“We changed our hours to 12-8, Monday to Friday, so we’re open later every night for women to come to the door for food, and harm reduction and hygiene supplies.”
Blaikie said self-isolating is almost impossible for people living in poverty.
“When you live in a rooming house, even if you’re staying home, you’re not really getting to isolate. Even if you want to, you’re basically at the whim of how everybody else in that space is behaving,” she said.
And stocking up on anything is also not an option, she said. When many Winnipeggers were out buying toilet paper, Blaikie noted many of their clients don’t have the money to buy it in advance.
“They are folks who usually buy roll to roll, so we’d stick some in with the food kits we’d deliver,” she said.
Blaikie said they’re also trying to create ways for people in the community to connect as well.
“We set up a new intake line for counselling. Our counsellors can chat with folks and help them navigate the different systems.”
Blaikie said another challenge their clients were experiencing was accessing services and systems like EIA, which require a phone.
“With some of the funding we received, we purchased 20 flip phones that we put 100 minutes on for some of our most vulnerable clients who didn’t have their own phone.”
Clients could now access financial, social, and mental health supports, plus Blaikie said it also enabled their staff to be able to check in with folks more efficiently and get them the supplies they need.
One of the main things on Mount Carmel’s wish list is to be able to reopen their showers for clients.
“We know there are a lot of folks who may not have access to a clean shower right now,” she said. “But in order for us to open up our shower, we’d need at least three or four staff to keep it safe and get it cleaned after every use, and we just don’t have the capacity for that right now.”