Posts Tagged "people"


Emergency supports extended for vulnerable people

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The Province is extending federal employment insurance exemptions and the provincial temporary crisis supplement.

These extensions will help ensure people on income or disability assistance and low-income seniors will continue to have access to the supports they need during the pandemic.

“B.C.’s response to COVID-19 has been strong and swift, but we are not out of the woods yet,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “The extension of these programs will allow some breathing room for people to get back on their feet as we move through our restart plan.”

On April 2, 2020, the Province announced a three-month exemption of all federal employment insurance benefits, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, for people already receiving income or disability assistance at that time. This exemption was put in place to ensure current clients whose employment may have been impacted by COVID-19 did not face any additional barriers and could fully benefit from federal emergency response programs.

This exemption, which now includes the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (effective May 1, 2020), has been extended for the duration of these federal emergency support programs so that eligible people will continue to fully benefit without any reductions to their monthly income or disability assistance payments.

For those who are not eligible for the federal benefits, the Province’s temporary COVID-19 Crisis Supplement, which has been provided since April, will be extended an additional two months. This supplement will continue to be provided to low-income seniors receiving the B.C. Senior’s Supplement and income assistance and disability recipients residing in special care facilities. No action is required from recipients. The temporary $300 crisis supplement will continue to be automatically applied to cheques distributed July 22 and Aug. 26, 2020.

These interim measures are part of the B.C. government’s COVID-19 Action Plan to provide income supports, tax relief and direct funding for people, business and services. 

Learn More:

For more information on supports for people on income or disability assistance:


Washrooms open in heart of Prince George to give homeless people a place to wash hands | CBC News

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The City of Prince George has opened washrooms for homeless people in the heart of downtown to help stall the spread of COVID-19.

It comes after years of pressure from the homeless community and advocates to make a public facility available.

Now the pandemic has spurred the city into action so that everyone in the area is guaranteed a place to wash their hands.

“Handwashing is really critical, especially with hot water. So … it was a matter of urgency,” said Chris Bone, the City of Prince George’s associate director of strategic initiatives and partnerships. 

Bone says the recent COVID-19 closures of downtown businesses and civic facilities, like the pool and library, made it even more difficult for people to access washrooms.

The new facility at the civc plaza is open for two five-hour stretches — 5 a.m.-10 a.m. and 7 p.m.-midnight — to cover off hours during which few services are available for those sleeping rough.

‘Silver lining’ of pandemic

The washrooms’ location is marked by a large, bright-orange shipping container, which acts as a shelter for the people who staff and monitor the facility.

Marcus Smaaslet​​​​​​, one of the peer support workers in high-visibility vests who monitors the restrooms, pulls open a door to reveal shiny metal sinks and toilet stalls. 

“I’m not going to make a speech,” he says.

Marcus Smaaslet helps keep the washroom clean and safe and monitors the stalls for drug overdoses. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC )

Smaaslet was hired by the Pounds Project, a drug users’ support group, to keep the stalls safe and sanitized and to stay vigilant for overdoses. 

“If you don’t have … a sink or soap, handwashing is really hard,” said Jordan Harris, executive director of the Pounds Project.

Harris says people on the street may be the ones using the facility’s toilets and sinks, but everyone in the city benefits.

“You can wash your hands as much as you want, but if other people aren’t you are still at risk. So this … reduces the number of infections that we could potentially see in this community,” said Harris, who is also a registered nurse. 

Harris said it’s unfortunate it took a “public health crisis” to get washroom access, but it’s a “silver lining.”

For years, people living on the street — about 160 of them by the city’s estimate — have pushed for more public restrooms. When people have to leave shelters or meal programs for the day, they may have had to use back alleys and sheltered spots instead.  

Late last year, as a pilot project, the city extended the hours of washroom access at some social service agencies.

Feedback has been positive, city says

Local businesses and residents appear to approve of the new washrooms, Bone says.

Last year, several downtown store owners complained about homeless people congregating in the area and some demanded that services supporting them be moved out of the area. Businesses were upset about thefts and assaults and about needles and human feces being found on the ground.

The City of Prince George opened the washrooms as part of its COVID-19 response. They’re located beside a bright orange shipping container that houses Pounds Project staff who monitor the facility. ( City of Prince George/Supplied )

But a month after Prince George quietly opened the downtown washrooms, Bone says “individuals from all walks of life” are giving positive feedback.

“People are remarking how clean it is in the civic plaza and how pleased they are that people have an option to use a washroom,” said Bone.

It’s not yet clear if the washrooms will remain open after the pandemic. 

To hear a virtual tour of the washrooms, tap here


New homes coming for vulnerable people in Victoria

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The Province has purchased the Comfort Inn Hotel, located at 3020 Blanshard St., to provide more affordable homes for people in Victoria.

“Everyone deserves to have safe, stable housing they can afford, and this site offers great potential to deliver a mix of permanent housing to meet the needs of people in Victoria,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “This will further add to the significant efforts underway with community and local government partners in the Capital Regional District to tackle the housing crisis and build the homes people need.”

The long-term use of the site will be determined through engagement with the community. In the short term, the building will provide approximately 65 rooms of temporary accommodations with wraparound supports for people currently living in encampments on the Pandora Avenue corridor and Topaz Park.

“Often people experiencing homelessness are not able to access the support and services they need,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “The purchase of the Comfort Inn, combined with medical and social supports, will help people make the transition from the street to permanent housing.”

BC Housing is partnering with Our Place to operate the building, which will start to receive people – referred by Island Health and BC Housing – in the coming days.

“This is a substantial investment in our community and will provide housing for those who need it most,” says Lisa Helps, mayor, City of Victoria. “This site has significant redevelopment potential to provide a range of affordable housing in the long term. I look forward to working with the community and with BC Housing to determine the long-term use of this site.”

People will have access to services, such as meals, health-care services, addictions treatment and harm reduction, storage for personal belongings and other supports, including 24/7 staffing to provide security to residents of the building and the surrounding neighbourhood.

“Our Place is looking forward to partnering with BC Housing in this bold initiative to provide indoor accommodations for our street family during this health crisis,” said Grant McKenzie, director of communications, Our Place Society. “We intend to serve this vulnerable population with dignity while striving to be a good neighbour to the community.”

BC Housing will set up a new community advisory committee that will include representatives from the Hillside Quadra and Burnside Gorge community associations and the surrounding community. This committee will oversee the supportive housing’s integration within the community and will address any concerns raised by people in the neighbourhood.

From April 25 to May 13, 2020, 208 people from encampments on Pandora Avenue and in Topaz Park have moved into safe, temporary accommodations with supports to protect their health and safety in the overlapping COVID-19 and overdose crises.

Quick Facts:

  • The B.C. government provided approximately $18.5 million to acquire the building.
  • The Province is working in partnership to build approximately 3,330 new affordable homes for people with a range of incomes in the Capital Regional District:
    • Housing for people with middle incomes: 121 homes
    • Housing for people with low to moderate incomes, including families, seniors and Indigenous peoples: 1,924 homes
    • Housing for women and children leaving violence: 39 homes
    • Housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness: 431 homes
    • Housing for students: 782 beds at the University of Victoria

Learn More:

For an overview of BC Housing’s work to monitor and respond to COVID-19, visit:

For more information and latest medical updates on COVID-19, follow the BCCDC on Twitter @CDCofBC or visit its website:

For more information on non-medical issues like travel recommendations and how to manage social isolation, visit:
Or call 1 888 COVID19 (1 888 268-4319) between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. (Pacific time), seven days a week.


‘Distressing’ drop in people seeking care for heart attacks in Canada, data suggests | CBC News

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New data suggests fewer people in Canada are seeking care for serious heart attacks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heart & Stroke and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society analyzed data from Ontario cardiac centres and found an unusually low number of people turning up at the hospital with the most serious type of heart attack, known as a STEMI.

They found a nearly 30 per cent drop in emergency department visits between March 16 and April 12 compared to the same period last year. Vancouver Coastal Health saw an approximately 40 per cent drop in STEMI patients during a similar time period.

Researchers say it’s unlikely the number of serious heart attacks has suddenly plummeted. They worry heart patients are at risk of greater disability or death because they may be avoiding care for fear of being exposed to COVID-19.

WATCH | Doctors worry about dramatic drop in ER visits across Canada:

Concerns about COVID-19 are stopping people from going to the emergency room with other conditions, including heart attacks and strokes. 1:58

Society president Dr. Andrew Krahn called the findings “distressing” and urged anyone with signs of heart attack and stroke to seek immediate medical attention.

Krahn said the empty emergency departments are a worry for health-care providers like him because they don’t mean people are well. Rather, they mean people are staying home who need urgent medical attention for a variety of reasons.

“I’m talking about heart conditions,” Krahn said. “But we know for instance there are more patients who are suffering strokes at home and don’t come to attention. And kidney failure where they come in and by the time they get in they need dialysis.”

He said the health-care system has precautions in place to test people for COVID-19 and to protect patients, and that it is prepared to respond to life-threatening medical issues during the pandemic.

Anne Simard, chief mission and research officer at Heart & Stroke, says anyone living with a chronic condition such as high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke with new or worsening symptoms should seek urgent medical treatment.

“We know everyone is concerned given the pandemic, but if these other serious issues are not treated and managed, people can become critically ill or worse,” Simard said in a release.

The signs of stroke can be remembered with the FAST acronym:

  • Is the Face drooping?
  • Can you raise both Arms?
  • Is Speech slurred or jumbled?
  • If so, it’s Time to call 911.

Signs of a heart attack include chest pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain; sweating; discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, or upper back; nausea; shortness of breath; and light-headedness.


16,389 people signed up for the B.C. workers’ benefit in the first 45 minutes. Here’s how you can apply.

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Applications for B.C.’s emergency benefit during the novel coronavirus pandemic are now open.

The B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers is a one-time $1,000 payment available to residents whose work has been impacted during the COVID-19 crisis. 

At about 8:30 a.m., the online applications opened to the public. During a live briefing Friday morning, Finance Minister Carole James said 16,389 people had applied for the benefit in the first 45 minutes the application was open, which is about 364 per minute on average.

“For people who have been let go of their jobs or who are trying to get by working on reduced hours, we know the pandemic is weighing heavily on you and your family,” she said.

“We all know that many British Columbians have lost their jobs or had their ability to work severely affected by COVID-19. It’s made it harder and harder for people to make ends meet, to be able to pay their bills.”

Announced last month, the benefit is available to those who have also been approved for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Applicants must also be at least 15 years of age and have been a resident on March 15. They also must have filed or agree to file a 2019 B.C. income tax return. Individuals receiving provincial income assistance or disability assistance aren’t eligible.

James explained the province is using CERB as a requirement to keep the application process quick and simple for applicants.

“We wanted to keep the application process as straight forward as possible,” she said. “It really was making sure we can get the money out to people as quickly as possible because we know they need it now.”

While a link was added to the province’s website on Friday, those who would rather apply over the phone can do so on Monday.  

Watch an American Sign Language translation of the news conference on the provincial government’s YouTube page.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Kendra Mangione


Province secures safe shelter, supports for people living in major encampments

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The Province is working with the cities of Vancouver and Victoria to transition people living in encampments in Oppenheimer Park, Topaz Park and on Pandora Avenue into safe, temporary accommodations with wraparound supports to protect their health and safety in the overlapping COVID-19 and overdose crises.

Since March 2020, the Province, in partnership with BC Housing and local municipalities, has worked to secure and operate 686 hotel and community centre accommodations in Vancouver and 324 hotel spaces in Victoria. This allows people from the encampments to safely physically distance, with access to important health, social and other supports.

“Providing safe, temporary accommodations and wraparound services for people facing homelessness has been an urgent priority for this government for a long time,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Now, more than ever, with the concurrent emergencies of the pandemic and the ongoing opioid crisis, it is time to implement long-term housing solutions that take care of and protect our most vulnerable people.”

This is a step toward providing permanent housing for people in these encampments. BC Housing, non-profit and health authority staff, provincial community-integration specialists and municipal staff will be working directly with people living in these three encampments and will help transition people into safer accommodations. There, they will have their own living space and access to services, such as meals, laundry, washroom facilities, health-care services, addictions treatment and harm reduction, storage for personal belongings and other supports.

This is the next step in a phased approach, developed in co-ordination and collaboration with local governments and service delivery partners, to support vulnerably housed people living with elevated risk during two public health emergencies – the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing overdose crisis. 

“Having a roof over your head, access to food, health care and social supports are all essential to finding a pathway to hope,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “As we stare down not one, but two public health emergencies, we are saying that we won’t leave anyone behind.”  

By transitioning vulnerable people into more secure accommodations, the Province is focused on reducing the immediate health and safety risks to people living and working in these densely populated encampments, as well as those in the neighbouring communities.

“Every day I am inspired by the tremendous leadership the Province has shown British Columbians,” said Lisa Helps, mayor, City of Victoria. “This approach to helping our most vulnerable residents is thoughtful, prudent and ultimately will keep all of us safer during this pandemic.”

This transition is supported by an order under the Emergency Program Act under the provincial state of emergency issued by Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, as part of the Province’s all-of-government response to COVID-19. The order sets May 9, 2020, as the deadline to transition people out of the encampments.

“In this provincial state of emergency, our priority is public safety: for those living in these encampments, neighbouring communities and front-line workers delivering services to these vulnerable people,” Farnworth said. “We are committed to working in partnership with local governments and law enforcement to address the elevated health and safety risks within and around these encampments, while making sure people have access to the critical services they need.”

The Province is working on comprehensive long-term plans to secure permanent housing with appropriate supports for those leaving the encampments and moving into safe, temporary accommodations. These plans will include strategies that will mitigate a return to homelessness and will also make sure the many public safety concerns at the current encampments are addressed, including fire code violations, property crime and sexual violence.

These accommodations are in addition to the more than 1,739 beds that have been secured for vulnerable people, including those experiencing homelessness, in other hotel rooms, community centres and emergency response centres across the province. This step also supports additional and existing work done to date by the COVID-19 Vulnerable Populations Working Group, regional health authorities, BC Housing and the cities of Vancouver and Victoria.


Cheryl Casimer, political executive, First Nations Summit –

“We would like to acknowledge the efforts of the provincial government and all partners involved in developing a strategy for the Downtown Eastside (DTES). Although the strategy announced today includes a temporary plan to address urgent housing and social service supports needed to curtail the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in the DTES, it will also allow the Province and primary partners to work towards addressing the much needed long-term housing and wellness strategies and needs to support the DTES community. Based on reports that a second wave of COVID-19 is possible, it is absolutely necessary that these long-term needs are addressed on a priority basis.”

Regional Chief Terry Teegee, B.C. Assembly of First Nations –

“These necessary supports for vulnerable members of the DTES community as well as other communities are much needed during this unprecedented health crisis. I applaud the efforts of the provincial government and other partners in addressing the housing and health-related realities that residents are facing. We must continue to advance and ensure long-term collaborative supports as we work to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Learn More:

The related order under the Emergency Program Act under the provincial state of emergency can be viewed here:

For an overview of BC Housing’s work to monitor and respond to COVID-19, visit:

For more information and latest medical updates on COVID-19, follow the BCCDC on Twitter @CDCofBC or visit its website:

For more information on non-medical issues like travel recommendations and how to manage social isolation, visit:
Or call 1 888 COVID19 (1 888 268-4319) between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. (Pacific time), seven days a week.

Three backgrounders follow.


New spaces secured for vulnerable people to self-isolate

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To support British Columbians who need a place to self-isolate and to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Province is partnering with local governments, non-profits and the hotel industry.

So far, more than 900 spaces have been secured at 23 sites including hotels, motels and community centres throughout B.C.

“These new spaces are a critical part of how we can support those who are vulnerable in our community, including those who are experiencing homelessness or living in communal locations where the virus could spread more quickly,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “In partnership with health authorities and local government, these new spaces are helping us mitigate the effect of this virus and support our health-care system in communities across the province.”

These new rooms and community centre beds are assisting a range of people, including people experiencing homelessness, people without safe spaces to self-isolate and youth.

In addition, some hotels are reserved specifically for people who have COVID-19 and need a place to self-isolate while they recover. Other spaces are for patients being discharged from hospitals who do not have COVID-19 and who do not need emergency care, but still require ongoing health care – freeing up much needed beds in hospitals.

Health authorities are identifying those who require self-isolation and working with BC Housing to refer people to hotel rooms or community centres. Some of these facilities are already operational, while the others are expected to be ready in the coming days and weeks. In addition to the more than 900 spaces secured to date, more rooms have been identified in communities throughout the province to be able to expand capacity if a need is identified by health authorities.

Non-profit societies who have significant experience working with vulnerable populations will oversee the day-to-day management of the hotels, motels and community centre spaces. Staff will be on site regularly and will provide daily meals and cleaning services. When required, health-care workers will also provide on-site care to ensure people are getting the medical attention they need.

This initiative is part of the Province’s efforts to stop the spread of the virus and protect vulnerable people, by ensuring those who need it have the space to self-isolate when they need to.  

Learn More:

For the latest medical updates, including case counts, prevention, risks and testing, visit:
Or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter.

For provincial health officer orders, notices and guidance, visit:

For non-health related information, including financial, child care and education supports, travel, transportation and essential service information, visit:
Or call 1 888 COVID19 (1 888 268-4319) between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week.

More information about how BC Housing is supporting British Columbians during the COVID-19 outbreak can be found here:

A backgrounder follows.


B.C. announces $300 monthly aid for people on income, disability assistance during COVID-19 | CBC News

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The provincial government is temporarily adding $300 to the monthly amount people on income and disability assistance receive to help them during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction said roughly 250,000 people are automatically eligible to receive the benefit on top of their regular support cheques for the months of April, May and June. 

Minister Shane Simpson said the benefit will come with the next round of cheques on April 22, with no application required.

“We know that COVID-19 is having a serious impact on all British Columbians. We know that people are concerned and they’re scared. We know that people who are living in poverty and living vulnerable are even more scared and concerned as they move forward,” Simpson said Thursday.

The supplement will also go to low-income seniors who receive the B.C. Senior’s Supplement and people who receive income or disability assistance and live in a special care facility.

A single person on disability currently receives $1,183 a month, which will become $1,483 after adding the new supplement. A single parent with two children currently sees $1,609 a month, receiving $1,909 with the benefit.

In a separate measure, the ministry said people who receive assistance from the province will not see money clawed back from their cheques if they qualify for the new $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

Meanwhile, those on assistance who are part of the B.C. Bus Pass Program will have a $52 transportation supplement added to their income cheques as B.C. Transit and TransLink are not currently charging bus passengers. That money will also be included on the next cheque and will continue until the companies reinstate fares.

A woman waits for a bus on a near empty Robson Street in Vancouver on March 30, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The measures are part of the province’s $5-billion financial aid plan to help British Columbians as the pandemic paralyzes the economy.

The plan included a monthly rebate for renters up to $500 a month. Simpson said those on disability and income assistance will not be eligible for that grant. 

The minister acknowledged there are people who might not have internet access to learn more about financial aid available to them because public spaces, like community centres and libraries, have been shut down.

In those cases, Simpson said the ministry is asking the public not to come to their offices for help, but instead reach out by phone. He said the ministry is also working with local agencies who directly support people on assistance to connect them with support.


COVID-19: Ministers announce supports for people struggling and poor

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He said they are working closely with about 2,000 agencies and non-profits delivering social services to make sure they have what the need to operate through the pandemic.

The B.C. government will use a “crisis supplement model” to support people in income and disability assistance, and is reducing bureaucracy that slows down the delivery of services, Simpson said.

He said they are also forming a plan for assistance cheque-issue day next week. Drug overdoses and deaths spike on the last Wednesday of each month.

“We know this is a challenging time for all British Columbians,” Simpson said.

“It’s a challenging time around the anxiety that’s created by this virus, and the anxiousness, and that is even more challenging for people who are living vulnerable. For people who are poor, people with disabilities, people who are on the street, the homeless, it’s an extremely challenging time for that population in particular.”


Private clinics would harm ’ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

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Dr. Brian Day, Medical Director of the Cambie Surgery Centre, sits for a photograph at his office in Vancouver on Wednesday, August 31, 2016.A lawyer for the British Columbia government says private clinics would increase wait lists for “ordinary” people in the public system and especially harm those who are most dependent on universal health care.


A lawyer for the British Columbia government says private clinics would increase wait lists for “ordinary” people in the public system and especially harm those who are most dependent on universal health care.

Jonathan Penner told a B.C. Supreme Court judge today that the frail and elderly, patients with complex conditions, and those with severe mental illness and substance-use issues account for most of the resources used in the public system.

He says those patients aren’t being considered by Dr. Brian Day, an orthopedic surgeon whose decade-long constitutional challenge argues patients have a right to pay for services if wait times in the public system are too long.

Penner says a two-tier system would drain public health care of doctors, anesthesiologists and nurses who would be lured to private clinics, like the one owned by Day, and increase costs of regulating both types of care.

Day has maintained that four plaintiff patients have been deprived of life, liberty and security under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms after suffering harms from waiting for surgery in the public system before they sought care at his clinic.

Penner says Day’s legal team has failed to identify whether any harms the patients may have endured were related to wait times in the public system.

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