A man sleeps at vacant commercial property in downtown Victoria. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

A man sleeps at vacant commercial property in downtown Victoria. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Greater Victoria street nurses ask government to help the homeless in COVID-19 crisis

12 priorities laid out by front-line workers

Front line health workers are calling on the provincial government to do more for the homeless population amidst the the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter the BC Ministry of Health, BC Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, BC Housing, BC Ministry of Poverty Reduction, street nurses, researchers and homeless advocates lay out 12 priorities to help the city’s most vulnerable.

One of the advocates is Corey Ranger, a registered nurse who works with vulnerable populations in Victoria’s downtown core. Since the pandemic began, he said, things have become worse for the region’s homeless population and aren’t looking any better.

ALSO READ: ‘I bawled, it was heartbreaking’; Parksville homeless shelter forced to close due to COVID-19 concerns

“People who are homeless or using drugs weren’t the original people vulnerable to COVID-19, those were travellers,” Ranger said. “However, they’re the ones feeling the brunt of the impact.”

The issue is that people without homes can’t adhere to provincial health policies issued in relation to the virus. Most shelters have closed, and those that remain open still have issues with crowding. Additionally, people can’t regularly access information or do online self-assessment tests without regular access to a cell phone or the internet – something that is much more difficult now that computer labs at shelters have shut down and since libraries closed.

On top of that, there are no handwashing stations situated around downtown Victoria for use by the public, and limited access to clean water and hand sanitizer.

“People who are homeless can’t self-isolate, so we’re giving them advice that doesn’t match up with their needs,” Ranger said. “They’re the ones at risk of being infected, since so many have pre-existing health conditions.”

At any given time, he added, there are approximately 160 people lined up in makeshift shelters along Pandora Avenue, none of whom can meet social distancing protocols.

ALSO READ: Victoria nurse asks for compassion after people shout at him for saving an overdose victim

On top of the COVID-19 crisis the opioid crisis is still ongoing, but with border closures, accessibility to drugs has seen a steep dive.

“That means people are taking more risks and going to dealers they don’t know,” Ranger said. “Dealers are cutting their drugs with more things to make up for the shortage.”

This is why one of the recommendations put forward in the letter is access to safe drugs – including both illicit and legal.

“If all of a sudden if there’s no pubs or liquor stores, people dependant on alcohol can go into withdrawal and die, so we need the government to step up.”

The letter also calls for more income support, for overdose prevention services to be deemed an essential service, to establish mobile testing centres, to provide more nursing support and to lift the ban on camping in parks.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Like us on Facebook, send a Tweet to @NicoleCrescenzi
and follow us on Instagram

CoronavirusHomelessnessnurse

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A peacock struts by a pair of lamb siblings at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, which remains closed to the public. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
VIDEO: Victoria petting zoo optimistic about future after 13 months closed

Public helps non-profit Beacon Hill Children’s Farm with nearly $100,000 influx

Island Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak in two houses at the Mount St. Mary long-term care home on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Google Earth)
Island Health declares outbreak at Victoria long-term care home

Resident, staff member test positive for COVID-19 at Mount St. Mary facility

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus is putting a 41-passenger electric bus through its paces in a three-month trial run between Nanaimo and Victoria. (Photo submitted)
Electric bus on trial run serving Victoria-to-Nanaimo route

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus trying out 41-seat electric coach for three months

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is helping Saanich police locate a suspect who allegedly stole an iPhone from a building in the 3100-block of Foul Bay Road on April 7. (Image via the Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers)
Saanich police seek suspect in cell phone theft

White iPhone XR reported stolen from building on Foul Bay Road April 7

Victoria police are looking for a 38-year-old man after he allegedly assaulted and choked a missing 15-year-old victim in Beacon Hill Park Tuesday night. (Black Press Media file photo)
15-year-old choked in Beacon Hill tent, Victoria police assaulted while intervening

Police searching for 38-year-old suspect, two officers injured in altercation with park residents

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Have rising prices caused you to give up hope of buying a home?

Do you have a spare 50 grand or so kicking around (have… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
An Island girl’s wish is answered as her cat came back

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

Most Read