Orillia’s only homeless shelter is cancelling Saturday’s drop-in and community meal program as part of a strategy to protect visitors from COVID-19.
Staff, volunteers and visitors at the Lighthouse Soup Kitchen and Shelter will instead do a “thorough clean” of the Peter Street facility Saturday, said executive director Linda Goodall, who created the strategy with operations manager Trish Holloway.
“We are still considered low risk (in Orillia) and we don’t want to create panic, but we are preparing,” Goodall said. “We are going to do whatever we can for the health and safety of our participants.”
The cancellation of the drop-in and community meal program will not affect those who are staying at the shelter.
Goodall didn’t go into much detail about the strategy but said it includes enhanced sanitation practices. While developing the strategy, the Lighthouse has been in contact with the City of Orillia, the County of Simcoe, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and other shelters in the region.
“We’re doing this as a community so we can keep the community healthy,” she said.
Goodall stressed there is no plan to close the shelter, but the impact on its services and operations will depend on the course of the virus. It leaves officials in a tough spot.
“If somebody comes to the door and has a fever and a dry cough and we don’t let him in, where does he go?” Goodall wondered. “We will do everything we can to keep our facility operating for the vulnerable people we serve, but if we have to cancel some of our programming to ensure their safety, we will.”
She is also concerned about the so-called panic buying that’s been happening — people clearing store shelves of items such as toilet paper and sanitation products.
“The population we serve can’t afford to get a month’s worth of toilet paper. They don’t have the luxury of purchasing multiple items ahead of time,” she said.
As the Lighthouse weathers the storm, it is appealing for donations of food and money — preferably money — to ensure it can continue to serve its visitors.