Astonishing! The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care has just released a new guide for shelter providers and has this advice for people who are homeless and forced to live in homeless shelters: “Stay home from work when experiencing influenza symptoms”! Pardon me, but the shelter is “home” for people who have no where else to live. The official government advice goes on to say that homeless people with flu symptoms should “stay two metres away from others or in a separate space”. Obviously, no one from the health ministry has visited a homeless shelter or out-of-the-cold program, where two or more people are routinely crowded into a two-metre space, and – unlike the Governor General’s Suite at the Royal York Hotel – there aren’t separate bedrooms for each guest at homeless shelters. The guide has plenty of good, general information about both swine flu and seasonal flu, along with all the practical tips like hand-washing, but there are no practical resources from the Ontario government to help shelter operators – like additional operating or capital dollars for safer, healthier shelters.
About Michael Shapcott
Michael Shapcott is Director, Affordable Housing and Social Innovation at the Wellesley Institute, an independent, non-profit research and policy dedicated to advancing urban health. Michael has worked extensively in Toronto, in many parts of Canada, nationally and internationally on social innovation, the non-profit sector, civic engagement, housing and housing rights, poverty, social exclusion, urban health and health equity. He is recognized as one of Canada’s leading community-based housing and homelessness experts.