As the public health crisis unfolds, Brenda Strafford Centre has made a commitment to remain fully operational to meet the needs of the 85 women and 163 children resident in our Second Stage Shelter (31 units) and our Supportive Housing Program (54 units).
The COVID-19 crisis has created several new challenges related to
1) meeting basic needs;
2) safety of staff and clients;
3) maintaining required staffing levels due to higher level of absence and;
4)supports for mental health in adults and children during the crisis.
In each category we are working to respond to the following needs:
1. Basic Needs - client families are experiencing difficulty maintaining food security due to self-isolation and quarantine requirements, job loss, Food Bank closures, reduced volume of donated food items to BSC, lack of childcare, and inability to use distance shopping methods that require credit cards, transport to pick up etc. BSC needs funds to acquire necessary basic needs supplies to ensure food security and other household necessities (infant formula, diapers, personal hygiene) can be provided, and to support families who are quarantined with active COVID-19 with prepared foods, snack foods and daily nutrition hampers to meet the needs of Mothers and children while ill/recovering. Families approaching length of stay deadlines are also unable to complete normal search for housing due to restricted mobility and are requiring extensions on stay limits until the situation stabilizes. This requires an extension of stay beyond the allotted timeframe to avoid risk of discharge to homelessness or return to unsafe, abusive homes.
2. Safety of Staff and Clients: in order to maintain operations while also minimizing risk to staff and clients BSC has significantly restructured our Program delivery models and has created new physical set up within the facility to maintain 24/7 support and a resource hub offering system navigation and crisis response while adhering to AHS protocols. In addition, we have had to purchase a range of PPE and supplies for use in sanitizing, staff protection, and client risk reduction. We have cancelled all Volunteer programming and limited building access to only staff on duty and current residents. BSC needs supplies, equipment and necessary technology (i.e. laptops and cell phones) to continue working safely and to allow us to serve all families inhouse and in process of intake.
3. Maintaining Required Staffing Levels: the COVID-19 crisis has significantly impacted staffing levels at a time when we have also lost the ability to use Volunteers. We are facing an ongoing need for higher than normal staffing levels while working to accommodate absence due to illness, required self-isolation and public health recommendations. This situation has required BSC to add additional Relief Staff, extend hours for PT staff, and provide paid leave for staff members we are directing to self-isolate. All of these costs are outside our existing budget and exceed available resources for staffing.
4. Supports for Mental Health for Adults and Children: With the loss of access to schools, childcare, group programs, recreation facilities and the corresponding high crisis period many families are exhibiting signs of anxiety, depression and associated risks of family conflict. Our Shelter and Housing units offer privacy and security, but are limited in size, resulting in families, many with multiple children 0-6 years old, spending long days in small spaces. Our group activities and Play Centre are currently closed along with our therapeutic early childhood programming - all due to need to comply with AHS directives. BSC needs resources to expand our mental health services and offer respite opportunities through creative small scale programming in our now under-utilized group programming space. This includes creating a Youth Drop In space to support youth from each family in having access to leisure, respite and privacy on a rotating basis, individual family respite centre, system navigation, and provision of supplies and activity kits that facilitate mental wellness while in isolation. This also includes expanded access to our clinical counseling staff through phone, Facetime, Skype and 1-1 contacts onsite and remotely.