COVID-19 is an unprecedented health threat for people experiencing homelessness. Like many health providers, ICHA was not fully resourced or prepared to face this challenge. In a few weeks, every aspect of ICHA’s operations and efforts adapted to respond to COVID-19, with rapid growth, restructuring, redeployment, and new partnerships. We are bringing all of our organizational capacity and resources to this effort, including population health, clinical care, community and agency relationships, program development, management and advocacy.
ICHA’s Strategic Plan will continue to guide our work. Our organizational vision is a healthy end to homelessness. We believe that all people experiencing homelessness must have the option for peaceful, secure and dignified housing. ICHA’s response to COVID-19 is unified under the following mission and management principles.
ICHA’s COVID-19 Response Mission
ICHA’s COVID-19 Response Mission is to prevent and reduce morbidity, mortality, suffering and inequity from COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness in Toronto.
Management Principles for the COVID-19 Pandemic
For our patients and clients:
- All people experiencing homelessness must have access to sufficient housing, physical space and supports to achieve appropriate and dignified social distancing and isolation as needed to protect health.
- All people experiencing homelessness must have equitable access to interdisciplinary clinical care when diagnosed with COVID-19, and appropriate and dignified settings to convalesce and recover if not requiring hospitalization.
- Protections and services must accommodate and respond to a diversity of strengths and needs among people experiencing homelessness.
- We will preserve our commitment to continuity of care, harm reduction and trauma-informed principles to the greatest extent possible throughout our COVID-19 response.
- COVID-19 creates concerns and threats specific to the needs and histories of Indigenous communities. ICHA’s COVID-19 interventions will respond to the needs of Indigenous people experiencing homelessness, in reference to the Indigenous Definition of Homelessness.
For staff, including health care workers and our partners:
- We will not compromise the safety of our workers, nor ask our workers to compromise their own safety, to achieve our mission.
- All caregivers must have access to a safe working environment that offers appropriate standards for infection prevention and control and occupational safety.
- Safety standards must protect all workers equally and as appropriate to their work. This includes health-care providers, homeless service sector staff, administrators, peers, and others.
- We will provide timely information to ensure our staff and partners are positioned to provide the highest possible level of care for our clients/patients.
For the community:
- We will communicate and listen, and foster dialogue with frontline providers, community agencies, and directly affected individuals and communities.
- Reducing infections among people experiencing homelessness is in everybody’s interest. Reducing COVID-19 infection, outbreaks and transmission among people experiencing homelessness is essential to flatten the curve for all Torontonians.
- Addressing COVID-19 requires teamwork and new partnerships. Our mission, and the needs of our patients and community, will determine when we lead, when we partner, and when we follow.