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People Who Are Unsheltered

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.
The following tips will help to protect you 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.

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
  • Hand sanitizer. 

Ask outreach or frontline staff for help if you do not have 24/7 access to running water.

What to do if...

Showing symptoms

If 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.
  • 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.

Underlying health issues

If you have underlying health issues such as TB, Hepatitis, HIV or diabetes or are immuno-compromised, and you 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.
  • Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.
  • Try to have at least a two-week supply of medications on hand.
  • View more information for people with chronic conditions
  • Call 8-1-1 for medical information.
  • For non-medical information, call 1-888-COVID19 (1- 888-268-4319).

Severe difficulty breathing

If you are having severe difficulty breathing (struggling to breathe or only able to speak in single words) or severe chest pain:

  • Call 9-1-1, or ask someone to call for you.

Nowhere to go to self-isolate

If 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 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.

Prescription medication, overdose prevention sites & opioid agonist therapy

If 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 a supply of the medications you need (such as opioid agonist therapy). 
  • 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.
Related links

Activating emergency response centres

The Joint Provincial Program Framework for Emergency Response Centres (PDF) provides information from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, BC Housing and local partners on providing emergency shelter to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Other resources

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SOURCE: People Who Are Unsheltered ( )
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