The executive director of Nelson CARES, which runs Stepping Stones shelter, says her staff need donations of medical masks and gloves to take care of the city’s most vulnerable citizens.
Jenny Robinson said Nelson CARES’ surplus of supplies is being used up to adjust for the COVID-19 outbreak. Those supplies of N95 masks and nitrile gloves, she said, are scarce and difficult to replace.
“It’s critical for our service to both protect our staff and our clients,” said Robinson. “If people happen to have a box in their basement, please share them with us. It’s of utmost importance right now.”
Stepping Stones, Nelson’s only shelter, is still operating, but Robinson said several changes have been made.
Drop-in services such as meals inside the shelter, staff consultation and computer and phone use have been suspended. The shelter is providing to-go food pickups outside, while inside the site is being disinfected regularly.
Clients with symptoms, Robinson said, are not turned away. Instead they are given a mask and sent to a bed, which has been separated off with curtains.
“It’s a great team over there and they’re working their butts off to keep us going here,” she said.
The shelter offers 17 beds, along with an additional five at a temporary cold weather site.
Robinson added tents and sleeping bag donations are also needed, and can be dropped off at the front of the Stepping Stones building at 816 Vernon St.
Nelson CARES also operates several affordable housing sites in the city, including Ward Street Place where visitors are now limited to maintenance services.
Robinson said the society has also suspended resident intakes and move outs, while rents have been readjusted to 30 per cent of income for clients who are working.
Its home support services for seniors, which include cleaning, have been suspended, and staff have begun health checkups by phone and are also starting to co-ordinate grocery drops.
“One of the key things people need to understand is people who live in poverty can’t hoard food,” said Robinson. “They can’t go to the grocery store and buy $600, $700 worth of food or even $200. We will need to support people going through this so they remain secure.”
Meanwhile, construction continues on the society’s new affordable housing sites at Hall Street and on Nelson Avenue. Robinson said Nelson CARES is taking direction from the provincial government, which has said construction projects may continue.
“We’re hoping we can still progress on them because housing is so needed, and more will be needed at the end of this.”
Volunteers have also contacted Nelson CARES about how they can contribute. Robinson said volunteers will be needed, and yard cleanup for seniors as the weather warms is an example of a job that staff will need help with.
But she added right now staff are trying to limit contact with people outside the society, and are still working on the logistics of how to use volunteers.
“We’re just trying to be as nimble as we can.”