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People who are unsheltered

There is a highly contagious virus (COVID-19 or coronavirus) impacting all communities. Here is important information for unsheltered people to protect themselves and others.


The following tips will help to protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after touching surfaces and people.
  • Don’t touch your face. Sneeze or cough into elbows.
  • If you cannot wash your hands with soap or use hand sanitizer, try to use alcohol-based hand wipes.
  • Avoid hugs and handshakes. Keep two arms’ length away from other people.
  • Wipe down belongings (including money).
  • Don’t share drinks and be cautious about food.
  • Try to pick up packaged meals and food from shelters and food banks.
  • Harm reduction: Do not share supplies, such as cigarettes, joints, pipes, and other supplies. If you have to share, wipe pipes with alcohol wipes or use mouthpieces. Prepare your own supplies and drugs.
  • Note: Some people may have minor or no symptoms and still carry/spread the virus. Be cautious, avoid large groups of people.


The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other respiratory illnesses including the flu and common cold. Visit our page on Symptoms to learn more.

Makeshift sanitation station if you do not have access to water

Supplies needed: 5 gallon or larger gravity flow, insulated container, water, waste water bucket, soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer. Ask outreach or frontline staff for help if you do not have 24/7 access to running water.

What to do if…

  1. You have flu, cold or COVID-19-like symptoms, fever or a dry cough or think you have been exposed to COVID-19.
    • Try to self-isolate and call 8-1-1 to ask about medical assistance and screening for testing.
    • If you don’t have a phone, outreach workers and shelter staff can help. Inform staff immediately of your symptoms and maintain a distance from others.

  2. You have underlying health issues (TB, Hep, HIV, diabetes) or are immuno-compromised and are concerned about exposure to COVID-19 at clinics, hospitals or shelters.
    • Take the same measures as you do to avoid influenza, colds and other illnesses such as washing your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.
    • It is prudent to have at least a two-week supply of medications on hand.
    • View more information for people with chronic conditions or call 8-1-1 for medical information. Call for non-medical information 1-888-COVID19 (1- 888-268-4319).

  3. You are having severe difficulty breathing, (e.g. struggling to breathe or speaking in single words) or severe chest pain.
    • Call 9-1-1, or ask someone to call for you.

  4. You have to self-isolate or quarantine but do not have anywhere safe to go or any supplies.
    • Inform outreach or shelter staff of your situation.
    • Call the new hotline 1-888-COVID19 (1 888-268-4319)
    • Buddy up when you are using. COVID-19 is passed by droplets. Stay 2m (6.5 ft) from your buddy to avoid passing the virus. Using with a buddy is safer than using alone.

  5. You need prescription medication, access to Overdose Prevention sites or Opioid Agonist Therapy (suboxone, methadone).
    • Ask for help. Talk to a pharmacist or addictions doctor.
    • Try to have the medications you need (such as OAT). Refills may be available directly through your pharmacist or by phone without having to see your physician.

Please note some public spaces like libraries, recreation centres, community centres and stores may be closed. Please reach out and ask for help if you need it.

Activating Emergency Response Centres

Information from Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, BC Housing and local partners on activating Emergency Response Centres for people who are homeless or may experience homelessness and who are unable to self-isolate. The Framework provides information on providing emergency shelter to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community.


Fact sheet

Working/volunteering with people who are unsheltered, homeless or street-involved

SOURCE: People who are unsheltered ( )
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