Services at Downtown Mission altered due to COVID-19 outbreak

The Downtown Mission sign at the building on Ouellette Avenue. (Photo by Adelle Loiselle)

A recent outbreak of COVID-19 among patrons and staff has caused the Downtown Mission to alter its services.

Over the last three weeks, there have been approximately 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff, volunteers, and patrons.

Due to the need for staff to isolate, meal services are being limited to individuals who are actively experiencing homelessness. On average, the Downtown Mission is serving 80-100 people per meal when usually it serves around 120-150.

“The coldest nights of winter impact the capacity of emergency shelters annually. The falling temperatures, coupled with the effect of Omicron on our staffing levels, posed a significant risk to our ability to serve guests,” says Interim Executive Director of the Downtown Mission Rukshini Ponniah-Goulin. “The support of our board and partners, the City, and the generous donation from St. Clair College, have allowed our staff to focus on preserving the shelter bed program for those wanting a safe place in from the cold.”

To support the Downtown Mission, St. Clair College is providing meals for guests to allow mission staff to focus on overnight shelter operations.

“This pandemic won’t be over until it is over; and until that day comes, St. Clair will be hand-in-hand with the community to address the difficulties created by COVID,” said St. Clair College President Patti France. “From lending beds, ventilators, and other medical equipment to the hospitals from our Centre for Applied Health Sciences, to housing field hospitals in our athletic facilities, to – now – providing food services to the Mission, local citizens and agencies need only ask for St. Clair’s help during the pandemic.”

The City of Windsor and other emergency shelter services are also helping to support the overall system. The Homelessness and Housing Help Hub (H4) Day Program continues to provide housing search assistance and other supports. Further, a temporary warming centre at the downtown aquatic centre has opened to relieve pressure on the existing day programs by providing an alternative space for people to get out of the cold.

“Crisis situations demand immediate action,” says Jelena Payne, City of Windsor Commissioner of Human and Health Services. “We applaud the Mission’s board of directors and their staff for making the difficult decision to temporarily alter their regular programming to preserve their capacity to shelter overnight guests, particularly during this period of frigid temperatures.”

Services will remain altered until the Windsor Essex County Health Unit declares the outbreak at the Downtown Mission over.