WATCH: Telus Convention Centre makes use of its space for Drop In Centre clients

As many as 300 Calgary Drop-In Centre clients will be housed temporarily at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre

Sandra Clarkson (left) and Kurby Court holding pillow and blanket in the new temporary satellite shelter for Drop In Centre clients. Photo by Luca Staffa for LiveWire Calgary.

A temporary coronavirus shelter located at Calgary’s Telus Convention Centre is now ready for Drop In Centre (DI) clients.

Sandra Clarkson, executive director of the DI, said they were facing problems keeping physical distancing rules at their main location.

She said they’ve been working with the Telus Convention Centre to make the best use of the space.

“The purpose of us moving 300 people is so that we can meet physical distancing guidelines put out by the public health authority,” said Clarkson.

“Our goal through all of this was to do our best to prevent the spreading of the virus through our shelter.”

Kurby Court, president and chief executive officer of the Calgary Telus Convention Centre was alerted last week that the DI needed assistance.

“I [had enough space] that would work appropriately so that we could isolate as an entire venue and operate as a separate entity from the rest of the structures,” Court said.

It took 76 hours to complete the preparations for the makeshift shelter, said Court.

 “All the logistics that come into doing an event came into play here, and the pace quickened when we realized we knew we could do this,” he said.

“This would be a 24-hour operation. This is not a 16-hour special event gala or a convention that only goes on for eight hours a day.”

Shelter is Alberta Health Services inspected

Clarkson said that Alberta Health Services have inspected the convention centre to ensure it followed public health guidelines.

“The set-up of the room is very intentional in terms of spacing of the beds and dining areas,” said Clarkson.

Beds will be placed head-to-toe and six feet apart. Each of the six-foot dining tables only has two chairs at opposite ends to maintain distance while eating.

They plan to introduce guests gradually, said Court.

“The smartest move is to slowly ramp up the amount of people allowed in the centre. We will slowly add 50 guests at a time, and our peak will be at 300,” he said.

Staff will monitor clients at the location

Staff working at the shelter will initially screen guests for several health indicators prior to their entrance to the shelter.

The clients will then go into a second screening before being assigned a space that will be their temporary home.

“I would argue that we’ve made every reasonable, best effort to ensure the safety and well-being of 300 people in a setting that we’re not normally operating,” Court said.

For comfort, there are open windows, two movie-size screens, and phone chargers included in the living space.

“There’s lots to do in this venue for people to feel relaxed in this very uncertain time.” he said.

Some clients anxious over the move

Clarkson said there’s mixed feelings from some clients who will move to the convention centre.

“I think people are anxious about moving, and anxious about everything around them, just like you and I are,” said Clarkson.

“The important thing is that we’re helping people to understand that this is for their personal safety,” she said.

In Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing, mayor Naheed Nenshi said this was a good opportunity to see if this response will work.

The mayor has questioned whether this is the right approach, as opposed to sheltering the city’s homeless in hotels. That was the first solution implemented for a portion of the homeless population.

He said this was a provincial matter.

“The province has been clear and I’ve been clear that we need to monitor this very carefully and if we find the virus is transmitting despite all our best efforts, than we need to pull out plan B, plan C and plan D,” he said.

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