NIPAWIN — A Nipawin community resource centre that provides cultural, prevention, educational and intervention programming to more than 300 clients is still operating despite the pandemic.
The Nipawin Oasis Community Centre Co-operative continues to work with more than 300 clients by appointment, with half the staff working from home. Most of its programming has been moved online, while staff continue to engage with clients through phone, texting and social media.
If families did not have the tools to connect, the centre stepped up to help.
“We figured out a way to do it through social media. Families that didn’t have internet have been hooked up to the internet and we’ve given a few laptops,” said Joy Hanson, the centre’s executive director.
Housing is a major concern for the centre right now, the executive director said, with around 60 clients in need of more permanent housing.
Hanson said social distancing and self-isolation does not work well when there are multiple families of multiple generations living in a three or four-bedroom house, so they will be looking into other options if quarantine is needed for their clients.
The centre has rented out a one-bedroom home to be used if a single person who is homeless needs to be self-isolated but the concerns go beyond being able to self-isolate one person.
“We figure there are about 39 (clients) that if there was COVID in a home, that they’d have nowhere to go.”
Hanson said the centre has been working together with the Town of Nipawin, the surrounding First Nation communities, the Saskatchewan Health Authority, and other government ministries and agencies so they can keep meeting the needs of their clients.
The needs of the community, including finding solutions for mobility, housing, food security and programming concerns, are still there, Hanson said, and they are receiving more referrals for services than ever before, especially as those needs are changed by COVID-19.
Some programming has gone online for people to access from home, including their cultural programs like powwow teachings. The centre has also continued programs like their beadwork sessions where materials are dropped off at participants’ homes, food hamper delivery, and distributing donations of furniture and household goods.
Donations of money and household items continue to pour from the community, Hanson said, which the Centre is very grateful for. Hanson is also happy to see all the donations to the centre and hopes the community continues to support the work they do.
The centre is still looking for household items and furniture, especially beds and pots and pans.
“I know people are not always able to give money but what I ask is if you have those towels and sheets that you never use, or pots and pans that you never use or bowls, that would be wonderful to receive.”
Due to COVID-19, the centre holds onto items for a week in an isolated area before they are distributed to help reduce the possible spread of the virus.
Having a pandemic response plan in place ensured that staff were able to respond quickly to protect their clients, Hanson said, with staff promoting reduced contact and social distancing back in February. By the beginning of March, Hanson said they were starting to cancel their programs because of the vulnerable population they work with at the centre.
Hanson credits the development of their COVID-19 Response Strategic Plan to one of their student workers, saying they did an awesome job providing the centre with direction and focus moving forward.
In the case of an outbreak in the community, the plan said, the centre will focus on four major pillars of concern that they will address in order to “prevent and protect those from the possibility of contracting,” including the most vulnerable members of the community. The plan includes guidelines and actions that will be taken to address communication, housing, food security, and hygiene/sanitation/safety concerns.
While members of the community have told Hanson how much they miss the centre, Hanson is happy with the way the centre has been able to adapt to the changes brought on by the virus.
“We’ve really buckled down and are trying to help as much as they can.”