With guidance from Ottawa Inner City Health, staff and clients at The Salvation Ottawa Army Booth Centre have worked together to keep the centre a safe place to be through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several measures were immediately put into place in the early days of the pandemic to protect staff and clients. The Ottawa Booth Centre’s management team has been following Ottawa Public Health and Ottawa Inner City Health guidelines to adjust their procedures.
“We discussed best practices and the different PPE needed for different circumstances, so we are providing all the right tools for our staff to be safe while attending to our clients,” said Marc Provost, Executive Director of The Ottawa Booth Centre. “Because of the way the shelters in Ottawa are built it’s impossible to completely distance from one another, but we have changed the way we use our different spaces to provide as much distance between people as possible and it’s been effective.”
As a result of the collaboration and support from Ottawa Inner City Heath there has not been an outbreak of COVID-19 at The Ottawa Booth Centre.
“Their work at keeping us informed has been amazing. As partners they completely understand how we work and they were able to help us adapt protocols to our setting,” said Marc. “Wendy Muckle, Executive Director and Nurse at Ottawa City Health was also able to calm our staff, explain the new procedures and answer questions.”
Wendy Muckle explained that Ottawa Inner City Health worked collaboratively with the shelters to develop an infection control system in preparation of any kind of outbreak which helped them be prepared early.
Some of the things put into place early in the pandemic included increasing cleaning practices and the number of staff, obtaining PPE for staff along with training, keeping clients safe with measures such as hand washing upon entry and operating an isolation unit at The Ottawa Booth Centre for those being tested for COVID-19.
Wendy explains that collaboration was key in keeping everyone safe. “Early in the pandemic Ottawa Booth Centre Program Director, Mike White, found PPE items from the H1N1 outbreak, which were tested before use, and then shared with all the shelters. Knowing that that people move between shelters you have to protect everyone.”
“Ottawa was two weeks ahead of other municipalities in locking down shelters. That’s mainly thanks to Ottawa Public Health and Wendy Muckle,” said Mike. “What’s really important is that you need to have a plan in place before a pandemic. The shelters got together and developed one a long time ago and put together processes and procedures for everyone. Trying to scramble without a plan would have been more challenging.”
Marc says both the staff and volunteers have been amazing throughout the pandemic. “I am inspired by them. They do whatever is needed while wearing PPE which is sometimes uncomfortable, but they do it anyway. They are always there for our clients, whether they are physically ill or in need of mental health care,” said Marc. “Nothing has stopped or slowed down here. All of our programs continue to run.”
Clients at The Ottawa Booth Centre have also been generally cooperative with the new measures put in place. “In the beginning I was thinking this pandemic may send clients into a tail-spin, but they have been doing amazing,” said Marc. “They are patient and in good spirits.”
As a result of conversations between the Ottawa Booth Center, the other shelters, the city and Ottawa Inner City Health, the city has opened a centre to help with the overflow of people at the three downtown shelters.
“When you see the hard work being done by our staff; just wow! It’s cool. It’s human behaviour at it’s best. I feel extremely lucky to witness this,” said Marc. “I am also very impressed with our management team. They are going out of their way to make sure everyone is well taken care of. That is a huge responsibility in these challenging times. I am so thankful for them as well.”
When the pandemic started in the early spring, staff at The Ottawa Booth Centre held a meeting.
“Someone said ‘We can’t stop providing service, people depend on them.’ Then there was a brief silence and the person continued ‘Well we will just have to work it out’. I think that’s what I keep from the whole thing,” said Marc. “We’re just going to have to continue to adapt and make it happen. We cannot leave people without the things they need. It’s just not an option for us.”