Chilliwack – It started out with a flurry of social media posts, then anonymous calls to FVN from Security Guards who were told not to go inside the Portal Homeless Shelter on Yale Road off Downtown Chilliwack.
BC Housing told FVN:
BC Housing is aware of COVID-19 cases connected to the Portal Shelter. We are working closely with Fraser Health and Ruth & Naomi’s Mission, who is operating the shelter, to support them and their clients. For more detailed health information, we suggest you connect with Fraser Health.
When the pandemic started, the Province and BC Housing moved quickly with regional health authorities, municipal partners and experienced non-profit shelter and housing providers to develop community-based response plans to the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes identifying locations where vulnerable individuals, including those who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, would be able to recover and self-isolate, and establishing coordinated health and social supports for vulnerable people.
The self-isolation sites are vital in preventing the spread of COVID-19 as they allow us to spread out the number of people in existing shelters, free-up acute care beds in hospitals, and prevent crowding. In Chilliwack, we have expanded our capacity by securing new spaces for people to self-isolate from COVID-19. We now have secured 30 spaces, up from 25. As with other sites that are under contract, we are unable to disclose the name of the site.
Hours before the BC Housing email to FVN, Fraser Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the Portal Shelter, a homeless shelter located at 46293 Yale Road, Chilliwack, after finding evidence of COVID-19 transmission among staff and clients.
To date, 12 staff and 25 clients at the Portal Shelter have tested positive for COVID-19. Fraser Health is screening staff and clients, and case and contact management is ongoing. Those identified as cases and close contacts have been instructed to self-isolate. Harm reduction and social work support is being offered on-site and to clients isolating off-site.
Others are in quarantine at the Travelodge.
Tina McNeill Ortutay, who has been a long standing critic of where the Portal is located, told FVN that she has received many calls from concerned parents whose children go by the Portal on way to wither Chilliwack Middle School or Chilliwack Secondary.
On a public relations level, this timing could not have been worse. The 18 month temporary use permit for the location, expires with the City of Chilliwack near the end of 2021. RAN was told to find another place to house people in that shelter, away from the downtown core and “ground zero” for crime and drugs. The concern was raised in public hearings that the shelter was too close to the two schools mentioned earlier, and that has raised the ire of many parents.