LONDON, ONT. -- In front of the Salvation Army Centre of Hope on Wellington Street, a homeless person living in a tent was given a City of London eviction notice and order to leave.

"You'd think us living in a tent or anything, they'd think they'd let us be," says a person only identified as Melina.

"With that sickness killing people, and there not enough rooms in the shelter, they could just let us be you know," she adds.

Poverty advocate Abe Oudshoorn feels this pandemic exacerbates the limited housing options.

"We can see how social distancing is a privileged opportunity," says Oudshoorn. "People without a home don't have that option. The shelters are incredible, but it's close quarters for folks."

We reached out to city hall to see if they planned on relaxing on their bylaws during this time, to allow the homeless to self-isolate in tents, rather than be forced into a crowded shelter. They danced around a direct question, and responded with a statement.

"We are doing all the we can to ensure that those most vulnerable in the community are supported as best as possible during this very challenging time," says Sandra Daters Bere, the city's manager of Housing and Social Services.

"That is consistent with the services that we provide every day."

Shelters across London have been given direction from the city to monitor and plan for COVID-19, including:

  • increasing routine infection prevention and control practices, including the frequency of disinfecting commonly touched surfaces
  • inventory personal protective equipment
  • initiate planning groups that will work with Homeless Prevention and the City of London planning team
  • post signage with information on COVID-19 and speak to clients about the virus
  • ask screening questions for those requesting shelter access, staff and those accessing your buildings
  • consider spaces in shelter that can be used for isolating individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19

At Mission Services of London they are following guidelines and communicating with staff and clients.

"Some of the spaces are more than one person to the sleeping space," says Ericka Ayala Ronson, director of development at Mission Services London.

"We are working with officials with the City of London and Middlesex-London Health Unit to explore options should be necessary to have self-isolation."

Oudshoorn feels the city should take care of any vulnerable people by temporarily moving them into a hotel or motel.

"If someone needs to be isolated, and the city can pay for two weeks or three weeks while they go through isolation, that gives them a safer and better place to be, and keeps everyone around them safe as well."

Melina says it feels like there is no sympathy right now from the city.

"They want us out on the street, we have nowhere to go, but they don't care where we go."