For the local Salvation Army, it’s still business as usual helping people in need, albeit with some slight changes.
Brent Hobden, the community ministries director, says the Pidcock House emergency shelter in Courtenay is operating its 18 beds as usual in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of these, the Province provides funding for 14, while the Salvation Army covers the other four.
“The emphasis is on keeping our staff and our guests safe, following all those precautions from the provincial and federal government,” he says, adding they are taking extra precaution when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing facilities. “It’s constant. We’ve got handwashing stations in all of our locations.”
There are also six transition units, which the Salvation Army also covers.
From November through to the end of March, the Province, through BC Housing, also provides funds for 20 mats inside the facility to help more people through the coldest months of the year.
“We make those available with no restrictions. People are able to come into the shelter and find a place to sleep,” Hobden says.
Normally, the Emergency Weather Response program would be ending later this month, but Hobden says the Province has approved funding to continue for at least a few more months.
“That program will remain at least until June 30,” he says.
Another change the Salvation Army is facing surrounds food. It is part of the Sonshine Lunch Program, with other service providers, to feed lunches to people in need. In light of crowd size and social distancing provisions, it is making changes, through still providing the food.
For the time being, it will be offering bag lunches Tuesdays through the family services office on 29th Street (across from Canadian Tire) as opposed to inside St. George’s United Church.
“All of the programs have gone to bag lunches,” Hobden says. “That way we can ensure social distancing.”
People, he says, have been understanding of the changes in how the Salvation Army delivers its services, including the move of the location for the lunch program. It is, however, facing a shortage of some supplies.
“We are finding that we’re running short of food,” he says.
While the stores are not open for retail sales, they will still take donations of food, along with clothing and money. People can also make donations financially online.
He also says the family services office is also seeing more demand because some other agencies have had to shut down operations.
“We’re welcoming everybody that comes in,” he says.