Nearly 500 homeless use EXPO emergency shelter Tuesday, agency says

Nearly 500 people used the drop-in portion of the EXPO Centre on Tuesday, the first day the emergency shelter was open to the homeless, says the agency overseeing operations. 

Susan McGee, CEO of Homeward Trust, said 477 people dropped in throughout the day to rest and get meals.

McGee said workers are watching to make sure clients with flu-like or COVID-19 symptoms are going to the separate isolation section. 

“As they come into the site, everybody is being screened and they’re having their temperature taken,” McGee said. “So we’re really trying to manage to make sure that this can continue to operate the way it is by ensuring the people that are in the day services area are well.”

Clients showing symptoms will stay in the isolation section for 14 days. 

Jackie Liu, director of operations with the Boyle McCauley Health Centre, said 19 people were in isolation as of 4 p.m. Wednesday. 

“They’re doing the right thing and we want to help them do the right thing,” Liu said. 

The 19 clients showing symptoms, including cough and fever, have been tested, Liu said.

A spokesperson for AHS, Holly Budd, said they will not reveal results of the tests, citing patient confidentiality concerns.

Boyle Street Community Services, the Bissell Centre and Mustard Seed are all pitching in to serve the drop-in program, which is separate from the isolation section.

In compliance with social distancing measures, the drop-in part of the shelter can accommodate a maximum of 230 people at a time, McGee told CBC News on Wednesday. 

The space hasn’t had that many people at one time, she said, but service providers are expecting more people as the days go by. 

“We are also able to provide some day rest area just so people can have a nap,” McGee said. “So that’s actually been in high demand.” 

With public places like libraries closed, she said, there’s a higher demand for homeless people looking for an indoor venue to relax and get off the streets.

“So we are running out of places for people to go and be well and also get the services they need.” 

Edmonton Transit Service buses are shuttling the homeless between downtown shelters and the EXPO centre every 30 minutes or so. 

Fifteen passengers are allowed on a bus at one time to ensure social distancing. 


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