Abbotsford’s homeless population is continuing to be supported in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Abbotsford News file photo)

Abbotsford seniors and homeless receive support during pandemic

Extra precautions and additional services added to aid vulnerable populations

Two of Abbotsford’s most-vulnerable populations – seniors and those who are homeless – are being supported by local agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jesse Wegenast is a pastor with 5 and 2 Ministries who connects with people living on the streets and also runs a 20-bed winter shelter at the Mennonite Central Committee on Gladys Avenue for those 50 and older.

He and others have been connecting with people who are homeless to pass on the message about the pandemic and ways to keep healthy, but he says that can be difficult for those who don’t have a roof over their heads.

“For the homeless people, it shows how complicated (the situation) is, when there is a housing crisis … If they had an apartment, they would be hunkered down in their apartment,” he said.

Wegenast said another challenge is finding how to support somebody who needs shelter overnight but who might be sick.

Under these circumstances, Wegenast said staff are being diligent in regularly disinfecting the shelter, practising social distancing – beds are spaced further apart than usual – and ensuring that everyone in the quarters is frequently washing their hands.

The shelter has also shut down its coffee station, Wegenast said.

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He said 5 and 2 Ministries is continuing to provide meals outdoors on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the corner of Laurel and Montrose. But the food is being served in takeout containers to discourage people from lingering.

Wegenast said one of the biggest challenges for the agency is having enough cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer on hand, due to public hoarding.

He said donations of such items would be much appreciated. Wegenast can be contacted by email at jesse.wegenast@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, Abbotsford’s seniors population is being supported by Archway Community Services, which has set up a new Mobile Seniors Outreach program.

Staff will help isolated seniors 65 years and older with accessing online services such as banking and grocery shopping, and will provide friendly visits and referrals to services as needed.

The program also offers assistance with prescriptions, scheduling and rescheduling appointments, transportation services, and helping to set up online communication apps such as Facebook and Skype so that seniors can maintain contact with their loved ones.

For more information, visit archway.ca/seniors-outreach. To access the program, call 604-776-5060 (ext. 103) or email seniors@archway.ca.

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