The Cold And Covid, A Deadly Combination
If there is one message that governments have been trying to drum into us over the past year, it's that we need to stay home.
“Not everybody has a home though,” says Jordan Heath-Rawlings, host of ‘The Big Story’ podcast. “Homelessness,” he continues, “is a systemic problem. One that's been around for hundreds of years. One we haven't solved, but it's also a problem that is so much more dangerous in the middle of a pandemic winter.”
“Right now, the late night coffee shops, the mall bathrooms, the public libraries and water fountains, and so much more are closed.” notes Heath-Rawlings. “Those are the things that provide services to people without homes. Those are the things that keep them alive.”
In a recent podcast, Jordan Heath-Rawlings talked with Jake Kivanc, a reporter and writer based in Toronto. Kivanc has looked into exactly how deadly winter can be.
The two spoke of Raphael Andre, a homeless man on the streets of Montreal who was found deceased in a portable toilet. There have been similar such deaths this winter in Toronto. In Andre’s case, he died just meters away from a shelter that had been forced to close its overnight services because of pandemic restrictions.
“Essentially what happened was the shelter had an outbreak of COVID-19,” reports Kivanc. “They were told that they could reopen at the beginning of the year, but they would not be able to stay open past 9:30.” He continues, “Maybe during the day people are coming in and out and there's less of a chance of a spread of the virus. That seems to be what the municipal health authority believes.”
In Toronto, in terms of the frontline workers that Kivanc has spoken to, he says, “they're meeting a lot of first timers, a lot of people who've never been homeless before.”
Kivanc adds, “Anyone who's relying on panhandling to get by, even simple things like public restrooms have been eliminated this entire time. Most public toilets, the city run public toilets, almost all of them are closed except for the port-a-potties.”
“There's no research showing that COVID-19 has ever spread from particles flushed from a toilet,” says Kivanc who would argue that public bathrooms are “better for public health then they pose a risk because people are able to wash their hands and go to the bathroom in a place that is built for that.”
“Some of the recent lockdown measures are certainly backfiring,” concludes Kivanc, “Much more than they did during the first wave, on people who are homeless or otherwise experiencing some form of lack of shelter.”