ICHA has expanded its operations and staffing complement to meet the medical needs of the communities we serve during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been engaged in advocacy to ensure the “new normal” includes a just recovery for people experiencing homelessness.
Prior to March 2020, ICHA was a physician services organization with a considerable reach across 50 shelter and drop-in locations across Toronto. In response to the ongoing emergency, we rapidly scaled up an interdisciplinary complement that has included over 100 RPNs, RNs and NPs. Our Population Health Team developed the COVID-Alert Risk Evaluation and Management (CARE) tool which has informed physical distancing, housing and infection prevention efforts across the housing support and shelter sector in Toronto. ICHA is also part of collaborative efforts to provide COVID-19 vaccines to the high-risk homeless population.
Stay-at-home orders were a significant hardship for many in the early stages. For those precariously housed, housed in congregate settings such as shelters, or unsheltered, the new reality brought light to the longstanding systemic injustices that have left them without a place to call home.
COVID Recovery Site
The COVID Recovery Site is a collaboration between the City of Toronto SSHA, Parkdale Queen West CHC, The Neighbourhood Group, University Health Network, and Inner City Health Associates. At the Recovery Site, Inner City Health Associates provides acute episodic care for people who are unable to isolate without supports due to homelessness (including those living in shelters, those who are unsheltered, and some people in precarious or congregate housing). Many of ICHA’s clients have complex health needs including untreated chronic and complex multi-system diseases, an elevated risk of acute health emergencies, and serious and persistent mental illness and substance use. The COVID Recovery Site provides 24/7 medical supports, delivered by a team of nurses, harm reduction workers, peers, client support workers, and physicians. The Nurse Practitioner role is a recent addition to this program.
COVID Recovery Site Forms & Information
Enhanced Shelter Support Program
In collaboration with our sector partners, ICHA has responded to the emerging medical needs at the preventative distancing hotels. With support from our remote physician on-call team, NPs and RNs have been addressing complex health needs in 8 hotel sites with plans to have teams in more sites in 2021.
In addition to the physical distancing hotels, many residents have left the shelter system in the face of COVID and encampment sites have been growing across Toronto. We have conducted primary care outreach with nursing assistance to encampment sites and have found many have been disconnected from their community and health supports. We remain engaged and are looking to build on health supports for the encampment community.
Throughout the pandemic, the systemic injustices faced by those experiencing homelessness have become more apparent than ever before. This crucial moment in time has set the stage for advocacy to ensure that the “new normal” includes affordable housing and adequate healthcare for all. ICHA has teamed up with the national coalition, the Canadian Network for Health and Housing of People Experiencing Homelessness (CNH3), and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH), on the CAEH’s Recovery for All campaign, a 6-point plan to end homelessness in Canada by 2030.
An open letter was penned by ICHA’s Medical Director, Dr. Andrew Bond, to Toronto Members of Parliament to underscore the urgency of addressing the housing and health crisis in this city, and co-signed by fellow health and social service professionals. We will keep the pressure on our elected federal officials until they provide the housing and pandemic protection required for everyone who needs it – most particularly people experiencing homelessness.
All people experiencing homelessness, regardless of where they reside, need and deserve to be protected. Only a rigorous, resourced, consistent, cross-country best practice approach to vaccinating vulnerable populations like the homeless will protect those whom ICHA serves. This in turn will prevent community spread and help put COVID-19 behind us.
This imperative is at the core of an advocacy campaign advocating for early vaccinations for the country’s homeless populations launched this by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) and the Canadian Network for the Health and Housing of People Experiencing Homelessness (CNH3).