Amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Odyssey House remains in active operation, as it has been designated an essential service to the community.
Makayla Marcotte, director of communications at Odyssey House, said they are currently operating at 100 per cent capacity in both the 42-bed emergency shelter as well as in the 14-unit secondary shelter.
“We’re actively working through creating spaces within the emergency shelter and the second shelter where we can help individuals in house self-isolate and accommodate self-isolation for individuals accessing services in the safest possible way for residents and employees,” Marcotte said.
“We have a very safe setup and we are very lucky that we have this space that we do to accommodate this because some other shelters in the province who have smaller (facilities) are definitely experiencing a bit more difficulty in this than we are.”
In order to assist in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, the organization has been implementing daily preventative measures and adjustments to its operations.
On March 25, Odyssey House announced donations at the facility door will not be received until further notice, as the organization is limiting access for community members to the shelter.
Weekly support group meetings have also been cancelled, though the Community Supports team is working to establish an online group to support clients until further notice.
The Daycare Centre and Volunteer Program are both also temporarily closed, and people are asked to stay home for their own safety.
Marcotte said evidence collected by the shelter suggests a potential increase in demand for shelter services during times of natural disaster, such as a pandemic situation, due to inflated external stressors and anxiety, occasionally leading to more domestic violence situations.
“Domestic violence experts anticipate that rates and severity of abuse will surge as public officials and communities try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus through imposing restrictions and asking people to self-isolate,” she said.
Although acknowledging that social distancing or self-isolation would likely not turn anyone into an abuser, Marcotte noted that people already experiencing violence or who may already have violent partners are now stuck at home for longer periods of time.
“Additionally, people are facing anxiety about losing their jobs or layoffs and potential loss of income, which tends to increase the possibility for domestic violence, and there may be some individuals who are turning to substance use as a coping mechanism, which also leads to increases in domestic violence.”
Throughout the pandemic situation, the Odyssey crisis line, at 780-532-2672, will remain open in case anyone in the community finds themselves in a potential emergency situation.