Out of the Cold shelter following COVID-19 protocols

Merna Emara
Staff Writer

The Out of the Cold warming centre has been following safety precautions when admitting individuals for the overnight stay.

Dan McCormick, chief administrative officer at Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board (RRDSSAB), said they practice all safety precautions set out by the health unit. This includes wearing masks and keeping a six foot distance between everyone at the centre.

“There are limitations on the bathroom,” McCormick said. “We do cleaning at least twice a day in the whole shelter area, plus we do cleaning on spot areas as well. Everybody is screened coming into the shelter, so you have to pass the screening to get in. It is the same as any of our offices.”

Although there are no staffing shortages at the warming centre, McCormick said they have had a few people that were potential positives of COVID-19 and therefore could not allow them into the shelter. McCormick said they were given other accommodations.

“Generally [staff] check in with their manager just to see what they can do,” McCormick said. “If it was somebody that screens positive, we’d arrange or have them arrange to get a COVID test. They have to get a clear COVID test to come back into the shelter and then we look and see if we are referring them to the health unit to determine whether or not they have to isolate. Luckily, we’ve only had one instance of that since we’ve opened.”

The shelter can currently accommodate 14 individuals, however, McCormick said they have seen an average of three to five individuals per night.

That being said, McCormick stressed that there are rules to be followed when staying overnight at the warming centre.

“They can’t be high on either alcohol or other drug intoxication,” McCormick said. “They can’t bring anything in of that nature with them. They have to be on site during the open hours when we do allow people in. We do make exceptions if somebody was in the hospital seeing a doctor or someone came with a doctor’s note, they would be allowed in but anyone that doesn’t show up by 11, doesn’t get in. And if you leave the site, you can’t come back in.”

Out of the Cold is operating out of what was formerly the Apostolic Way Church. The building was purchased by RRDSSAB in September. Since then, there have been renovations to the rear part of the building.

This will be the permanent location of the warming centre. There will also be a Safe Beds Program that will be operating from the warming centre once renovations are complete. The Safe Beds Program is run by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and provides individuals 16 years of age or older mental health and addiction crisis support for 30 days. This program can be joined when recommendation is obtained from the OPP.

The warming centre has been open for overnight stay since November. It is expected that it will be up and running until April 30.