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Pandemic Exacerbates Isolation For Elder Homeless Men

With record unemployment, growing closures and foreclosures, and health risks complicated by declining mental health en masse, many Canadians are struggling to see even a single positive living under a cloud of COVID. Many but not everyone.

For some, March and April brought both good news and a good kind of bad news. The good news that sales are up and the bad news that supply cannot meet the growing demand. While most businesses in Canada are struggling to hang-on, a select few are struggling to keep up.

With the mandated short-term closure of many businesses and retail outlets, online shopping has increased and Canadian homes are destined to receive a record number of deliveries. Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same. Home delivery for people who are homeless continues to be a problem, compounded by challenges created by coronavirus.

Most people think nothing of home delivery. They take it for granted. It’s a service that is just there. Always there. Until you no longer have a home. Then what? That is a prospect few ponder; that may change in the coming months.

The concept of contactless delivery – “just leave it on the porch” – is a much-advertised solution to necessity, accessibility and the need for distancing; a solution that reinforces disparity and the barriers facing the nation’s homeless population.

"Such a basic need as mail” posts one Instagram user, “is the hardest thing I’ve ever witnessed for homeless men!”

Life can be difficult at the best of times making moments like today almost nightmarish, yet lately every day is like Christmas at Canada Post. Pre-Christmas, actually. Bah humbug! All is not merry, even at the crown corporation.

Dealing with an “unprecedented” volume of parcels, Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton warns, “People should expect delays.”

Leading up to Christmas, the crown corporation delivers upwards of 1.7 million parcels a day, something they have time to prepare for each and every year. But there was no ramping up for a pandemic that was barely on anyone's radar. “We’ve seen a growth,” Hamilton continues, “and we’re now 30 percent over the volume we would normally deliver.” In recent days, Canada Post has delivered 1.8 million parcels daily. "Those are the levels we’d see in the run up to Christmas, which is absolutely the busiest time of the year,” Hamilton explained.

The strain on Canada Post is due, in part, to demands from organizations like Amazon. The Seattle-based firm has alerted customers that it is experiencing delivery days amid the coronavirus outbreak. In a recent blog, Amazon said the issues are a result of a “dramatic increase in the rate that people are shopping online.” They are warning customers that deliveries by Canada Post are delayed an extra “15-30 days.”

Amazon revenue is up 26 percent in the first three months of 2020 compared to the same time last year, the highest growth on record for what is historically the company’s slowest period of the year.

Disruptions caused by COVID-19, from product availability to social distancing, have pushed consumers to be creative including looking to online ordering and home delivery for relief from needs and fears. A survey by First Insight, Inc. reports that, in just one month, from mid-February to mid-March 2020, 71 percent of women and 67 percent of men say that the virus impacted where and how they shop.

The same cannot be said for people who are homeless and for whom home delivery is not an option. In fact, the COVID-related closure of vital facilities exacerbates the situation for the homeless community, adding even greater barriers to services the general population tend to take for granted.

Haven Toronto, a drop-in centre now in its 87th year of operation, helps clients – elder homeless men age 50-plus – by providing a creative approach to mail service.

Clients are welcome to use the centre’s Jarvis Street address as their mailing address. This way clients can access online orders, letters from family and friends at a distance or distancing, and cheques vital to their survival. “As insignificant as it sounds,” one person writes, "it can solve a serious problem.”

Open every day, all year, Haven Toronto reduces the barriers clients face when accessing mail.




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