Clients at the Integrated Care Hub (ICH) and their service providers are currently clambering to handle a sudden influx of COVID-19 cases amongst those who use the facility.
According to the HIV/AIDS Regional Services (HARS) Kingston, on Thursday, Oct. 2128, 2021, officials at Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health notified HARS that an individual who had accessed the ICH had tested positive for COVID-19.
“That individual was no longer in the Kingston area and was diagnosed in another city. As a result, Public Health with support from AMHS provided mass COVID testing on Thursday and Friday at the ICH of both staff and the community served by the ICH,” said Gilles Charette, Executive Director of HARS.
“As a result of that testing, six positive cases were diagnosed by Saturday. Those individuals were informed and Public Health worked with them to identify close contacts so that they in turn could be informed. Some of these had only accessed services at the Consumption and Treatment Services, others had accessed the drop-in and rest zone of the ICH, and others are connected via the community of homeless individuals.” Charette confirmed that none of the ICH staff members have tested positive at this point. He also confirmed that, “trailers were moved into the ICH site for the six individuals in order to facilitate providing care to these individuals as well as to contain the outbreak,” however, KFL&A Public Health has not officially declared an outbreak at the facility as of Monday, Nov. 1, 2021.
Charette also said those in the trailers “are being provided with access to food and primary care services through our community partners,” including StreetHealth, Addictions and Mental Health Services of KFLA (AMHS-KFLA), and KFL&A Public Health. KFL&A Public Health confirmed they are working closely with those at the ICH, HARS, and their service partners, as well as the City of Kingston, which leases the ICH to address the situation and contain any possible spread of the virus. KFL&A Public Health is also assisting with rapid testing for the ICH.
“Beginning Sunday, any individuals accessing the ICH are COVID tested before they can access the facility. We continue to work closely with Public Health and our community partners as this situation evolves,” Charette said.
According to those who advocate for the unhoused and vulnerable community served by the ICH, those who tested positive were originally self-isolating in tents adjacent to the ICH and were sharing the use of a portable toilet with those who use the ICH. Once the trailers arrived at the site, those staying there were without power and heat for at least 12 hours, and the only available facilities to them remained the shared toilet. Some of those individuals expressed issue with taking a taxi to get tested at the COVID-19 testing facility, and said they’d not been tested. This has not been confirmed.
“We still have no power, no anything, no lights… no beds, no clothing, no proper medical attention, no proof for positive, and no assistance or help from anybody associated with the [ICH] hub, the City of Kingston, mental health (AMHS) or the health unit,” one of those staying in the trailer conveyed to Chrystal Wilson, a local housing and homelessness advocate, on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. Wilson passed the message along to Kingstonist directly.
“We’re on day four [since they initially detected a COVID-19 case here]… they didn’t do [anything to help during] the weekend, they said because they can have it done Monday,” the client conveyed to Wilson. “It’s all lies and we’re all sick…”
Wilson said she has confirmed with those at the ICH that those in the trailers now have heat and electricity, but also spoke to the urgent and predictable nature of what is occurring.
“This outbreak is inevitable. Public Health has done an excellent job of being flexible and responsive to get people vaccinated, the willingness of people without homes to get vaccinated has been exceptional. What has failed is the three levels of governments’ willingness to respond to the homelessness, housing, and opioid crises appropriately and humanely,” Wilson expressed.
“The Mayor, MPP and MP need to stop finger-pointing at each other, and roll up their sleeves to get people safely housed. Providing care and developing solutions isn’t difficult, you just have to try.”
As of just after 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, Stan, one of those staying in a trailer, indicated he and others had not had food apart from porridge at approximately 8 a.m. that day. He also indicated there is no heat in the trailers, and connections to electricity have been meager at best.
“We have and have not had hydro, heat, proper meals, anyway of communicating with the outside world, very little medical attention, and no proof that we are covid-19 possible positive (sic). I have both my vaccinations and my passport. The abuse and neglect that goes on here is pathetic in this world, in this country, and in this city, Kingston, Ontario,” said Stan, whose last name is being withheld for privacy reasons.
“The conditions here… I’ve never seen anything like this in Canada. We are being discriminated against being abused, mistreated, neglected.”
Officials with the ICH and the City of Kingston would not provide comment for this article. All inquiries were redirected to HARS, the service provider that works most closely with the ICH, along with Street Health and AMHS.
Kingstonist is currently following up with those staying in the trailers and service providers for more information, and will provide updates on this situation as information becomes available.