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Poverty, Homelessness and COVID-19: Boyle Street Community Services' Response to the Global Pandemic

Community Centre Precautions

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all facets of life for people across the world. This is especially true for the homeless-serving sector in Edmonton, Alberta. On March 11th, 2020, COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. At the time, this meant that all non-essential businesses were to close their doors, and staff of various organizations were to work from home; schools were closed, and students began learning online. It was the beginning of an unprecedented and difficult time for many. 

At Boyle Street Community Services, it was impossible to close our doors completely. Boyle Street provides essential services to individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty in Edmonton. Our StreetWorks team, Supervised Consumption Site, Drop-In – all located downtown as a part of our Community Centre – and Four Directions Financial all remained opened at limited capacity throughout the lockdown. Our hard-working teams came together to continue to provide refuge and services to people experiencing homelessness and poverty in Edmonton’s inner-city. 

There were several steps that needed to be followed for Boyle Street to remain open, according to Andrew Coady, Drop-In Manager at Boyle Street Community Services’ Community Centre. 

“There was strict security screening for both staff and community members before entering the building,” explains Coady. “Security would take temperature checks and ask AHS screening questions before anyone was allowed into the building.”

This helped keep track of everyone coming in and out and can help prevent the spread of the virus. 

Other procedures were also put into place. Hand washing stations with soap and water were installed throughout the Centre and in Four Directions Financial as well. There was limited capacity in the Drop-In space, with only 35 community members allowed in. Three community members were allowed in the Four Directions Financial at a time in order to maintain proper physical distancing. There were regular meetings with the AHS Health Inspector as well, in order to determine if it was safe enough to continue to stay open. 

Once wearing masks indoors became mandatory in Edmonton on August 1st, all Boyle Street staff were required to follow suit. 

“Mask wearing is also encouraged among community members,” explains Coady. “We hand them out to community members before they are allowed in the bank.” 

In June, the Drop-In was able to accommodate 45 people. With the Edmonton EXPO Centre closing at the end of July 2020 and staff moving back to the Community Centre to work, Boyle Street has been doing all that it can to ensure a safe workplace for our staff, as well as community members. This includes diligent sanitizing and cleaning by the janitorial staff and extra precautions taken by individual staff in their personal office spaces. 

In July, Boyle Street experienced a large flood in the basement of the Community Centre and Four Directions Bank, displacing 60 staff members from their offices. Many staff continue to work from home to accommodate the front-line workers who meet with clients regularly. The renovations can take anywhere up to five months to complete. 

As COVID-19 becomes part of our regular life at Boyle Street, we are all working hard to keep our community members and staff safe. The end of the COVID-19 pandemic is an unknown, and it is our continued responsibility at Boyle Street to keep our community as safe and well-served as possible. 


"Poverty, Homelessness and COVID-19: Boyle Street Community Services' Response to the Global Pandemic" is a five-part blog series highlighting Boyle Street Community Services' response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including how we're providing services, how we're protecting ourselves and others, and how we're working hard to keep our community safe, and well-served.


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